Emma Cowing: Shame of Syria’s first lady of hypocrisy
ASMA Assad has more than 34,000 “likes” on Facebook. Not bad for the wife of a man who has been systematically murdering his own people for the past 11 months.
Indeed, far from the reticent attitude one might expect from such a figure, the first lady of Syria has been busily updating her social networking site recently.
In the past couple of days she has posted videos of her husband signing a new draft constitution – a fig leaf for the Syrian government that will effectively see him stay in power until at least 2028 – as well as lyrics to patriotic songs, government rhetoric about there being “no conspiracy in Syria” and statements asserting that the Syrian government could not be held responsible for the death of any foreign journalists on its soil.
Mrs Assad was born and raised in Britain. She is the daughter of a consultant cardiologist and a retired diplomat, attended a Church of England state school and studied at Kings College, London, before pursuing a career as an investment banker, then married Bashar al-Assad in 2000. She is 36 years old and has three children.
Last February she was infamously profiled in American Vogue, where she was described as “glamorous and chic” and “the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”. In the article – now curiously deleted from the Vogue website – she explained how she ran her household on “wildly democratic principles”.
“We all vote on what we want,” she told the fawning US writer Joan Juliet Buck. “The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. They outvoted us three to two on that.”
I can’t imagine there are many chandeliers – made of cut-up comic books or anything else for that matter – adorning the ceilings of houses in the city of Homs. After three weeks of constant bombardment, and months of sustained military attacks, there probably aren’t many ceilings left at all.
The situation has become so bad inside the city that most of its 80,000 inhabitants are trying to survive without proper supplies of food, water or medicine. In the past few days small dribbles of women and children have been evacuated by the Syrian Red Crescent, but for the majority of the population, life has become something extraordinarily close to hell on Earth, shelled again and again by their own government.
A few weeks ago Mrs Assad sent a letter to a British newspaper saying that she “filled her days listening to and comforting the victims of violence”. Her tone seemed to suggest that she was somehow innocent in all this, that Syria was under bombardment from evil terrorists and that she, as first lady, was doing what she could to help.
This is patently nonsense. Mrs Assad is almost as complicit in the slaughter of peaceful Syrians as her husband, helping prop up the regime through social networking and by publicly supporting her husband.
In that same Vogue profile, Mrs Assad talked about how involved she was in teaching children about democracy, whilst tossing off stories about how she impressed the Jolie-Pitts with Mr Assad’s top-level security guards.
If you assume the privileges that come along with being the partner of someone who runs a government (lavish houses, expense accounts, personal protection and chauffeured cars), then you must also assume some of the responsibility for that government’s action, particularly if you stick your neck above the parapet and talk to western publications about just how involved you are in your country’s future.
Yesterday we finally saw the safe evacuation of Paul Conroy, the British photographer who was injured in Homs last week in the same blast that killed Sunday Times war correspondent Marie Colvin, to Lebanon.
Conroy’s evacuation happened despite, not because of, Mrs Assad’s actions. As a British-born woman with the ear of the president, she could have helped. Instead she chose to condemn the journalists for having been in the country in the first place on her Facebook page.
In the same way, by not speaking up for them, she is now condemning thousands of innocent Syrians to death.
She should be thoroughly ashamed of herself.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Sunday 26 May 2013
Temperature: 8 C to 16 C
Wind Speed: 15 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: South