Arab First Ladies catch falling husbands?

Published April 13th, 2011 - 12:00 GMT

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Arab First Ladies: A Blessing or a Curse for falling leaders: While Arab leaders fall will their wives be there to catch them?

As protests spread like wildfire in the Middle East, the often opulent lives of Arab stately or royal wives are in the spotlight.  Who’s footing the bill for the First Ladies expenses? Do they provide a false idealized image of their country, with their good works and initiatives in the arena of development and human rights, when on the ground their husband-led regimes are shunning their so-called progressive values? Continue reading below »

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Qatar's Sheikha Mozah: Glamorous and sophisticated, she is not just a pretty face, but actively involved in government & politics unlike most lower profile Arab First Ladies. She is behind the Doha Debates and the woman vote for Qatar.
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Image 1 of 14:  1 / 14Qatar's Sheikha Mozah: Glamorous and sophisticated, she is not just a pretty face, but actively involved in government & politics unlike most lower profile Arab First Ladies. She is behind the Doha Debates and the woman vote for Qatar.

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A wardrobe to match her achievements, she is one of the world’s richest women. Comparisons have been made with Jackie Onassis, and she is hailed as a queen of fashion in European fashion circles.
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Image 2 of 14:  2 / 14A wardrobe to match her achievements, she is one of the world’s richest women. Comparisons have been made with Jackie Onassis, and she is hailed as a queen of fashion in European fashion circles.

Enlarge
Syria's Asma al-Assad gets compared to Princess Diana by her people. She is charming, well-spoken, well-educated. Such a proponent of all things progressive, she can even claim equal share in the decision to marry with Bashar!
Reduce

Image 3 of 14:  3 / 14Syria's Asma al-Assad gets compared to Princess Diana by her people. She is charming, well-spoken, well-educated. Such a proponent of all things progressive, she can even claim equal share in the decision to marry with Bashar!

Enlarge
Vogue's most magnetic First Lady. Supporter of causes, sporter of her Christian Louboutin shoes, armed with a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism. Does this jive with the family of a brutal, repressive dictatorship?
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Image 4 of 14:  4 / 14Vogue's most magnetic First Lady. Supporter of causes, sporter of her Christian Louboutin shoes, armed with a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism. Does this jive with the family of a brutal, repressive dictatorship?

Enlarge
Former First Lady of Tunisia, Leila BenAli, played role of President of the Arab Women’s Org, and received awards for her supposed contributions to humanity, she is more remembered for her greed, and role in the corruption of her husband’s rule.
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Image 5 of 14:  5 / 14Former First Lady of Tunisia, Leila BenAli, played role of President of the Arab Women’s Org, and received awards for her supposed contributions to humanity, she is more remembered for her greed, and role in the corruption of her husband’s rule.

Enlarge
'Lady Macbeth of Tunisia' allegedly made off with copious amounts of gold after the uprising that ousted her husband. Nicknamed by her people ‘hairdresser’ in reference to her ordinary roots (no pun intended).
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Image 6 of 14:  6 / 14"Lady Macbeth of Tunisia" allegedly made off with copious amounts of gold after the uprising that ousted her husband. Nicknamed by her people ‘hairdresser’ in reference to her ordinary roots (no pun intended).

Enlarge
Egypt’s Suzanne Mubarak, ex-first lady, while publicly advocating women’s rights and children’s health, founder of the Arab Women Organisation, she has a definite stake in her husband's estimated $70bn fortune.
Reduce

Image 7 of 14:  7 / 14Egypt’s Suzanne Mubarak, ex-first lady, while publicly advocating women’s rights and children’s health, founder of the Arab Women Organisation, she has a definite stake in her husband's estimated $70bn fortune.

Enlarge
They get woman issues on the agenda: but there are often even more fundamental human rights being neglected in their countries, like hunger and torture.
Reduce

Image 8 of 14:  8 / 14They get woman issues on the agenda: but there are often even more fundamental human rights being neglected in their countries, like hunger and torture.

Enlarge
Bahrain's Shaikha Sabeeka: Unveiler of taboos, she once raised sexual slavery, trafficking, prostitution and rape in the Mid-East, and using her charm, she boldly addressed a room full of male dignitaries and officials.
Reduce

Image 9 of 14:  9 / 14Bahrain's Shaikha Sabeeka: Unveiler of taboos, she once raised sexual slavery, trafficking, prostitution and rape in the Mid-East, and using her charm, she boldly addressed a room full of male dignitaries and officials.

Enlarge
Lalla Salma keeps low as First Lady of Morocco, though seen more than predecessors. Admired for blending tradition with modern fashion, she wears kaftans that don’t come cheap, having taken as much as a year to create for a single wear.
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Image 10 of 14:  10 / 14Lalla Salma keeps low as First Lady of Morocco, though seen more than predecessors. Admired for blending tradition with modern fashion, she wears kaftans that don’t come cheap, having taken as much as a year to create for a single wear.

Enlarge
Designer names abound in her closet: Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Christian Dior, with jewels by Garrard, Boucheron and Cartier. Still, she has been patron to cancer associations and traditional music functions in Fez.
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Image 11 of 14:  11 / 14Designer names abound in her closet: Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Christian Dior, with jewels by Garrard, Boucheron and Cartier. Still, she has been patron to cancer associations and traditional music functions in Fez.

Enlarge
Libya: Safiya Farkas, has a reputation as shopaholic. Mrs.Gaddafi and daughter indulged in daily shoppingsprees. Notorious for chartered jet travel, bulging shoppingbags, flagged by motorcade of Mercedes.
Reduce

Image 12 of 14:  12 / 14Libya: Safiya Farkas, has a reputation as shopaholic. Mrs.Gaddafi and daughter indulged in daily shoppingsprees. Notorious for chartered jet travel, bulging shoppingbags, flagged by motorcade of Mercedes.

Enlarge
Stil, she is not to be seen now, aiding and abetting her husband’s downfall, or propping him up. Reputedly e a tall, stunning woman once, like daughter. All of the Gaddafi children have  income from the National Oil Company.
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Image 13 of 14:  13 / 14Stil, she is not to be seen now, aiding and abetting her husband’s downfall, or propping him up. Reputedly e a tall, stunning woman once, like daughter. All of the Gaddafi children have income from the National Oil Company.

Enlarge
Philippines: Imelda Marcos ‘Steel or Iron Butterfly’ links all these First Ladies together under the umbrella of shoe-fetish! Most of our Leading Ladies have well stocked wardrobes. Known for her corruption trials and her 2,700 pairs of shoes!
Reduce

Image 14 of 14:  14 / 14Philippines: Imelda Marcos ‘Steel or Iron Butterfly’ links all these First Ladies together under the umbrella of shoe-fetish! Most of our Leading Ladies have well stocked wardrobes. Known for her corruption trials and her 2,700 pairs of shoes!

Enlarge

1

Qatar's Sheikha Mozah: Glamorous and sophisticated, she is not just a pretty face, but actively involved in government & politics unlike most lower profile Arab First Ladies. She is behind the Doha Debates and the woman vote for Qatar.

Image 1 of 14Qatar's Sheikha Mozah: Glamorous and sophisticated, she is not just a pretty face, but actively involved in government & politics unlike most lower profile Arab First Ladies. She is behind the Doha Debates and the woman vote for Qatar.

2

A wardrobe to match her achievements, she is one of the world’s richest women. Comparisons have been made with Jackie Onassis, and she is hailed as a queen of fashion in European fashion circles.

Image 2 of 14A wardrobe to match her achievements, she is one of the world’s richest women. Comparisons have been made with Jackie Onassis, and she is hailed as a queen of fashion in European fashion circles.

3

Syria's Asma al-Assad gets compared to Princess Diana by her people. She is charming, well-spoken, well-educated. Such a proponent of all things progressive, she can even claim equal share in the decision to marry with Bashar!

Image 3 of 14Syria's Asma al-Assad gets compared to Princess Diana by her people. She is charming, well-spoken, well-educated. Such a proponent of all things progressive, she can even claim equal share in the decision to marry with Bashar!

4

Vogue's most magnetic First Lady. Supporter of causes, sporter of her Christian Louboutin shoes, armed with a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism. Does this jive with the family of a brutal, repressive dictatorship?

Image 4 of 14Vogue's most magnetic First Lady. Supporter of causes, sporter of her Christian Louboutin shoes, armed with a mission to create a beacon of culture and secularism. Does this jive with the family of a brutal, repressive dictatorship?

5

Former First Lady of Tunisia, Leila BenAli, played role of President of the Arab Women’s Org, and received awards for her supposed contributions to humanity, she is more remembered for her greed, and role in the corruption of her husband’s rule.

Image 5 of 14Former First Lady of Tunisia, Leila BenAli, played role of President of the Arab Women’s Org, and received awards for her supposed contributions to humanity, she is more remembered for her greed, and role in the corruption of her husband’s rule.

6

'Lady Macbeth of Tunisia' allegedly made off with copious amounts of gold after the uprising that ousted her husband. Nicknamed by her people ‘hairdresser’ in reference to her ordinary roots (no pun intended).

Image 6 of 14"Lady Macbeth of Tunisia" allegedly made off with copious amounts of gold after the uprising that ousted her husband. Nicknamed by her people ‘hairdresser’ in reference to her ordinary roots (no pun intended).

7

Egypt’s Suzanne Mubarak, ex-first lady, while publicly advocating women’s rights and children’s health, founder of the Arab Women Organisation, she has a definite stake in her husband's estimated $70bn fortune.

Image 7 of 14Egypt’s Suzanne Mubarak, ex-first lady, while publicly advocating women’s rights and children’s health, founder of the Arab Women Organisation, she has a definite stake in her husband's estimated $70bn fortune.

8

They get woman issues on the agenda: but there are often even more fundamental human rights being neglected in their countries, like hunger and torture.

Image 8 of 14They get woman issues on the agenda: but there are often even more fundamental human rights being neglected in their countries, like hunger and torture.

9

Bahrain's Shaikha Sabeeka: Unveiler of taboos, she once raised sexual slavery, trafficking, prostitution and rape in the Mid-East, and using her charm, she boldly addressed a room full of male dignitaries and officials.

Image 9 of 14Bahrain's Shaikha Sabeeka: Unveiler of taboos, she once raised sexual slavery, trafficking, prostitution and rape in the Mid-East, and using her charm, she boldly addressed a room full of male dignitaries and officials.

10

Lalla Salma keeps low as First Lady of Morocco, though seen more than predecessors. Admired for blending tradition with modern fashion, she wears kaftans that don’t come cheap, having taken as much as a year to create for a single wear.

Image 10 of 14Lalla Salma keeps low as First Lady of Morocco, though seen more than predecessors. Admired for blending tradition with modern fashion, she wears kaftans that don’t come cheap, having taken as much as a year to create for a single wear.

11

Designer names abound in her closet: Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Christian Dior, with jewels by Garrard, Boucheron and Cartier. Still, she has been patron to cancer associations and traditional music functions in Fez.

Image 11 of 14Designer names abound in her closet: Yves Saint Laurent, Valentino, Christian Dior, with jewels by Garrard, Boucheron and Cartier. Still, she has been patron to cancer associations and traditional music functions in Fez.

12

Libya: Safiya Farkas, has a reputation as shopaholic. Mrs.Gaddafi and daughter indulged in daily shoppingsprees. Notorious for chartered jet travel, bulging shoppingbags, flagged by motorcade of Mercedes.

Image 12 of 14Libya: Safiya Farkas, has a reputation as shopaholic. Mrs.Gaddafi and daughter indulged in daily shoppingsprees. Notorious for chartered jet travel, bulging shoppingbags, flagged by motorcade of Mercedes.

13

Stil, she is not to be seen now, aiding and abetting her husband’s downfall, or propping him up. Reputedly e a tall, stunning woman once, like daughter. All of the Gaddafi children have  income from the National Oil Company.

Image 13 of 14Stil, she is not to be seen now, aiding and abetting her husband’s downfall, or propping him up. Reputedly e a tall, stunning woman once, like daughter. All of the Gaddafi children have income from the National Oil Company.

14

Philippines: Imelda Marcos ‘Steel or Iron Butterfly’ links all these First Ladies together under the umbrella of shoe-fetish! Most of our Leading Ladies have well stocked wardrobes. Known for her corruption trials and her 2,700 pairs of shoes!

Image 14 of 14Philippines: Imelda Marcos ‘Steel or Iron Butterfly’ links all these First Ladies together under the umbrella of shoe-fetish! Most of our Leading Ladies have well stocked wardrobes. Known for her corruption trials and her 2,700 pairs of shoes!

Reduce

First Ladies are First in spending

Whether  they’re first, second or fourth wives, the First Lady is the top choice for media to photograph and tops charts in her wealth and spending. ,

Celebrated and hailed as stunning ambassadors of their nations, admittedly, the role seems to be reliant on “looking good” as the unofficial face to the regime. Does this suggest an innocence and passivity to the running of the country and fate of the people, or are they more complicit than in their very supportive roles and by leading lavish lives.  Should they interfere more or less in politics? The leaders’ wives are especially being scrutinised for their lavish lifestyles.

While some are unarguably popular at home and abroad, they often face accusations of dividing their people and stealing from their nation, especially during this period of Discontent.

They boast their modern stance on family rearing and mothering, as with Syria’s First Lady making public statements unashamedly on running her household on wildly democratic principles" – not really holding up a mirror to how her country is run.

Feminist agendas promoted them, but do not necessarily trickle down to their people seemingly.

Ironically enough, as Arab leaders come under opprobrium and face people uprisings that speak loudly and in no uncertain terms of dissatisfaction with current regimes, the women behind these men, seem on the surface to be anything but old school figureheads who would associate with repression and outdated or anti-democratic dare we say modes of rule. These ladies are often young in the cases of the falling not fallen leaders and educated and progressive. Some like Mubarak or Gaddafi’s wife are older though never too old to have a penchant for indulging in shopping, decadence and shoes.

 Some of the newer Wives of Arab Leaders highly educated with prestigious university degrees

 espouse the values of a quality education and equal footing in marriage and child-rearing. Firmly reject misogyny and champion gender equality, driving their own cars, encouraging husbands to do the same, devoting extra time to their children. Mothers first then Queens, Princesses or First Ladies.  Modern and very progressive in their philosophy of marriage as equal footing showing her involvement domestically and even in state- “I have lived with my husband more than I have with my parents. I live besides him, and know his worries, his hopes, and his dreams for his nation. We believe it is our duty to make things happen!" (Moza, First Lady of Qatar)

Second or third wives, these are the First for camera and state image. Also often first for spending the state’s money on designer shoes and wardrobes in keeping with their classy costly state charm!

Anyway have the better halves been able to catch their husbands as they fall or indeed have fallen? As they say behind every great man is a woman. How sturdy a prop or crutch do these First Ladies really make when it comes to the crunch?

During long regimes, first ladies were often near to absent from the spotlight and public life—women hidden in the private harems of their ruling men.

No longer so: Through their pioneering and championing their own roles, Qatar’s first lady – who is strictly the second wife- even managed to secure her son as heir to the throne in honor of her strides and advances for Qatar (founding the Education City… and overseeing the Doha Debates, advocating for the right of women to vote)

These ladies signal mixed messages as they try to straddle two cultures, Western and traditional, to different degrees of success.  Not always an easy feat in the scrutiny of the Arab and western media. Some come under criticism for seeming to pander too much to the Western-born values or working and supporting Western organizations. Advocating for the battle against poverty, while their countries are often one of the poorest nations. Pushing initiatives for progress can be seen as backstabbing to their countries tribal habits.

"People tend to believe that to be modern you have to disengage from your heritage. But it's not true. We don't see the global citizen as someone with no identity, but rather, someone who has confidence and is proud of his culture and history - and open to the modern world.” Said one First Lady, speaking for the latest crop of First Ladies seemingly.

However their grace and elegance doesn’t come for free from States where their people are often wonting for food and better human rights and wages.

Do they promote and feed resentment in people who are already aggrieved by rubbing salt into the wound, or do they save their husbands?

 

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