Image 1 of 9: Not your typical geeky computer science grad: Asmaa Al Assad, nee Akhrass, sets the trends for dictators' wives' hair.
Image 1 of 9: Asma grew up in what the British would call a "semi", or semi-detached house. Although these types of houses are fairly typical in London suburbs, the house in which Asma grew up has shot to prominence as a focus of protest by activists displeased with the way Assad has cracked down on his own citizens.
Image 1 of 9: Syrian first lady Asma Al Assad proves that even when cold, she can strike a pose, in this photoshoot for Vogue magazine. Looking over Damascus, we can only wonder if Asma, more shrinking violet than Desert Rose, gets enough to eat.
Image 1 of 9: Although married to a man who purports to be an Arab nationalist, the young Asma has reportedly kept her British passport and went by the name "Emma" when she was at a British boarding school.
Image 1 of 9: The Vogue editor who went out of her way to interview the Assads, for a story which was run during the eve of the Syrian revolution, later tried to disassociate herself from the story. Bashar, she claimed in an interview with CNN, followed her around the house and demanded to be a part of the story. Of course, she could have said as much earlier.
Image 1 of 9: The British banker looks out at her subjects: Asma Al Assad, philanthropist to Syria's children, looks like she might smile as she sips a glass of juice at this function with men dressed like they belong on the set of Lawrence of Arabia. Asma's own style sense, seen in this photo, is a little bit more au fait.
Image 1 of 9: If her husband's regime should ever fall, Asma Al Assad has a promising career as a film extra, or perhaps a model for "ethnic garb". In this pose, Asma, whose family hails from the traditionally conservative city of Homs, puts on an imitation of the late Benazir Bhutto.
Image 1 of 9: Fixed smiles all round: Asma Al Assad gets to meet the Queen of England; she may be the First Lady of Syria, but Asma can show a stiff upper lip like the British-born woman she always was. These days, the Al Assads are not likely to be courted by European leaders.
Image 1 of 9: Asma Al Assad complained in a leaked email that she never had time to try on new clothes, nor more recently with the onset of pesky revolutions, the occasion for some of her more glittery numbers. But she doesn't seem to be having that problem in these photos, donning her select handbags and these thick necklaces.
Asma Al Assad's image in the western media has taken a turn for the worse since the Syrian uprising began. The wife of a man now regarded the world over as something of a murderous tyrant, she was previously feted by leaders of European countries; in fact, she was born in one, and carries a UK passport.
There are many faces to Asma Al Assad: sometimes western, sometimes Arab; sometimes philanthropic, sometimes a banker. Always stylish. And, as recently most attested, the unremittingly good wife.
A look at how Syria's First Lady, that is, first for charity and good works, began to slip if not plunge from grace. Aside from over-spending, which many wives are guilty of, she has colluded, as lately exposed in her husband's mocking of reform and covert-tank tactics. She has gradually shifted from strained shades of silence to more significant public support for the questionably inscrupulous father of her children. An email statement issued straight from her office, voiced her wifely stance capped in her advocacy of his constitutional reform pledge. From the flattering epithet 'desert rose' offered early 2011 by a Vogue appraisal, she has more aptly started to earn, in some minds, the label of Arabic 'Marie Antoinette', as her husband's subjects choke on their Kanaafeh (an Arabic cake).