Asma al-Assad and the Conflict in Syria

Asma al-Assad

A file photo dated 11 November 2008 of Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad attending the second conference of the Arab Women's Organisation (AWO) at the Emirates Palace Hotel in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. Media reports on 20 April 2012 state that thousands of women in the United States this week joined an online campaign to demand Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad stand up to her husband to end a conflict that continues to claim lives everyday despite a tenuous ceasefire since April 12. Nearly 20,000 women have so far signed petitions, sparked by a YouTube video released 18 April 2012 by the wives of the German and British ambassadors to the United Nations in New York. Wives of other UN ambassadors have also joined the campaign. The campaign led by 21st century women echos the first known mass protest by women demanding peace through unusual means. ALI HAIDER/EPA/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: epaphotos402887

 Currently, Syria is on the brink of civil war, with rebel forces being met with startling violence from the Syrian government that has been condemned by the U.S., Arab League, China, Russia, and EU states. Syrian army deserters and civilians have united to create an opposing army called the Free Syrian army, but it currently lacks organized leadership and has little-to-no prospects of foreign intervention.

Called “a rose in the desert” by Vogue magazine in its March 2011 edition (an article that has been scrubbed from the internet), Asma al Assad’s (wife of Bashar al Assad, the iron-fisted ruler of Syria) life is one of polarizing ends. Truly, she is a rose. Painted in the media as a woman of grace and splendor, she represents the beauty of a rose well; however, she also carries the thorns as she has become a controversial public figures during the conflict in Syria.

Sporting designer labels like Chanel and Christian Louboutin, Asma oozes with elegance and poise, aided by her British accent and high IQ. On one end her presence alone is enough to spark hope in Westernizing Syria as she delivers statements like, “We all deserve the same things. We should all be able to live in peace, stability, and with our dignities.” On the opposite end, she’s married to one of the fiercest dictators in the Middle East and has stood silent as the country is in turmoil, left to shop in Europe during the first uprisings, and has since been banned from traveling to or shopping in Europe. Even Anna Wintour, editor of Vogue, has disowned Asma, when just last year she was praising her.

Born in London where she was known as Emma, Asma worked as an investment banker and met her husband Bashar in London. They fell in love and married in 2000 after Bashar’s father died, and he was voted in as president with 97% of the vote. They lived a life full of glamour, dining with American celebrities like Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt and traveled to exotic places.

Asma al-Assad helps a child read.

Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad visited on the eve of Eid Al-Fitr Basma unit for the care of children with cancer and children who are Aidt and their parents and medical staff wishing healing for children in Damascus -Syria. AY-COLLECTION/SIPA/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: sipaphotosthree487819

As Bashar ascended to the presidency, many hopes were pinned on him redirecting Syria towards more Western values, and Asma was meant to be the face of that new regime, because well, people like looking at her face. These hopes stemmed from the fact of their marriage—Asma hails from Sunni origins, and the Ba’ath party, which the Assads are a part of, are strongly tied to Shia Islam. The Ba’ath party disapproved immensely of their marriage, but many hoped that this marriage was a sign of more understanding coming between the two factions of Islam. Also, both Bashar and Asma were educated in London, so as they returned to Syria many promises of Westernization were fluttering around.

Asma al-Assad delivers a speech.

Syria's First Lady Asma al Assad during HAAA 6th Arab World Conference Starts in Damascus-Syria. AY-COLLECTION/SIPA/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: sipaphotosthree487799

In July of 2001, Asma created a fund that would foster economic development and improve the quality of life. Traveling around to different villages in Syria, Asma encouraged community support and a respect of heritage. Another of her campaigns was to improve the lives of women and highlight their key roles in development.  In April 2002 Asma al-Assad hosted the largest gathering of business women in the Middle East.

Although she is a woman in a Middle Eastern country, underestimating the first lady of Syria would be unwise. According to an article from Reuters: “As Syria slides towards civil war and foreign powers watch for cracks within the ruling clan, understanding Asma could prove vital to understanding the Assads and the future of the Syrian crisis.”

A Syrian woman stands next to a pre-Baath flag.

A pre-Baath Syrian flag flutters next to a woman taking part in a demonstration against the Syrian regime in the Libyan capital Tripoli on June 1, 2012. World leaders voiced fears that Syria stands on the brink of civil war but found little agreement on how to bring it back from the abyss. GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: afplivefour482433

Two wives of UN ambassadors also felt this way. In April 2012, the two women sent a video letter to Asma urging her to stand up for peace, and also launched an online petition. The video, “signed by women everywhere”,  has some harsh criticism for Asma: “No one cares about your image, we care about your action. Right now.” The voice over is set to pictures of the horrors of Syria, and contains graphic images of the children dying due to Asma’s husband’s actions. The video has a call to action, directing Asma to “stand up for peace” and asking women everywhere to send a letter to the first lady of Syria, urging her to do something.

Some say that Asma has no choice or power, but others refute that with an email leaked from Asma published in March 2012 that quotes her saying, “I am the REAL dictator. He has no choice.”

A wounded child from the Syrian conflict.

Ali Katab, 14, seen June 2, 2012 in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria, shows wounds he said he sustained when he was shot during a massacre of 32 people on May 15, in the presence of UN observers. Ali said an officer counted to three then ordered his men to open fire on the assembled demonstrators. The girl in the background suffered a broken arm in the ensuing stampede. Austin Tice/MCT/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: krtphotoslive554080.

In January 2011, Syrian demonstrations began with demands for the overthrow of the Ba’ath Party, which the Assads are a part of. Although neither side discloses that sectarianism is playing a role in the conflict, it is interesting to note that the uprising is led by the Sunni Muslims, whereas the presidency is associated with Shia Islam.

The Syrian conflict is spilling over into neighboring Lebanon, where civilians there are supplying the Syrian rebels with weapons. The future is tense, and the world is watching with bated breath to see if Asma will be able to play a role in bringing peace where it is so desperately needed.

Asma al-Assad hugs an elderly woman.

Syria's First Lady Asma al Assad in Damascus-Syria. AY-COLLECTION/SIPA/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: sipaphotosthree487870

Asma al-Assad talks to an elderly woman.

Syrian first lady Asma Assad (R) talks to a woman during a visit to a state-run home for the elderly in Damascus, Syria on 19 December 2007, the first day of Eid al-Adha, or the Feast of the Sacrifice. The feast commemorates Abraham's willingness to sacrifice his son for God and is considered the most important holiday in the Islamic calendar. YOUSSEF BADAWI/EPA/Newscom. Find it on Newscom.com: epaphotosthree524392

 

Check out more pictures of Asma al-Assad, the face of troubled Syria, and pictures of the Syrian conflict at Newscom.

You may be interested in some of these other posts from FocalPoint:

A Look Back at the Royal Wedding

AFP Photographer Wins Agency’s First Pulitzer

Fighter Jet Crashes into Apartment Buildings

New Titanic Museum Opens in Belfast

4 thoughts on “Asma al-Assad and the Conflict in Syria

  1. Pingback: Asma al-Assad and the Conflict in Syria | shootplex

  2. Bashur al-Assad

    What an interesting article! I liked the description of Asma as a thorned rose, and the phrase “oozes with elegance” really underscores that juxtaposition of grace and…. evil.

    Very nice piece.

  3. Granthana Sunder

    Good day! This is my first comment here so I just wanted
    to give a quick shout out and say I genuinely enjoy reading through your articles.
    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that go over the same subjects?
    Thanks!

    1. anna gardyn

      she must be an evil woman and her family support the regime as I said. They also murdered many Jews in 1974 and also in the 19th Century also in other countries like Turkey 6 young Jews were murdered trying to leave Syria murdered and raped by smugglers and they committed many atrocities and started numerous wars with
      Israel and support terrorism. In todays Mail on Sunday there is a two page article
      how they support the regime her father is a cardiologist!!! and her mother a former
      diplomat. She is beautiful and evil it appears. The Arabs and Muslems murdered
      many Jews all over the Arab world in pogroms also in Turkey during the 19th Century, in particular and the Syrians murdered Eli Cohen who left a widow and three children in 1963. Even the Vatican tried to save him to no avall. They tried everything, supply of tractors and other help to no avail. They hung him. No one seems to care about Assad’s victims, except an Israeli NGO who went in to help, and several charities. It is very sad. This woman is beauty with cruelty and should

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