The Silence Of Asma Assad

Published January 15th, 2012 - 01:55 GMT
Asma and President Assad
Asma and President Assad

Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President, reappeared during a public speech of her husband Wednesday, January 11. A woolen cap on her head, she kept her arms around her two children to protect them.  

The Western media and opponents have long hoped the 36 year old Asma may bring some moderation in the attitude of the Syria regime. Born in Acton, on the outskirts of London, she is the daughter of a cardiologist born in Homs. She holds a degree in computer science and French literature. She was educated at King's College London, and then worked briefly for the JP Morgan bank. When she met Bashar al Assad he worked on his PhD in ophthalmology. He did not have aspirations to take over the affairs of his country until the sudden death of his brother Basil, who was considered the heir of his father, Hafez al-Assad.

Asma, a bit like Queen Rania of Jordan, does not fit into the classic image of wives of Arab leaders. She used to travel extensively, support humanitarian activities, and strongly advocated women's causes and rights. When she participated in a conference in Paris on the evolution of Syria a few years ago, she told anyone who wanted to listen that her model was Princess Diana.

The truth is that in her ten years in the presidential palace in Damascus, she boosted the image of her country more than her husband. In the spring of 2011, the Vogue magazine devoted the cover page for Asma calling her "the rose of the desert".

But at that time the revolutions across the Arab world, so-called Arab Spring, just erupted. Since March 2011, Syrian protesters come under fire and massive crackdown ordered by Bashar al Assad.

Since the eruption of the bloody events, there were reports that Asma was so uncomfortable with the policy of her husband that she decided to leave Syria. It is reported that days before her public appearance on January 11, she received a request from a humanitarian group to come and meet with victims of abuses by the Syrian police and army forces. She didn't respond, and according to some sources she even seemed indifferent to the fate of the protesters.

The silence of Syria's first lady amid the bloody crackdown has been angering opponents. One of them described Asma on Twitter as modern Mary Antoinette. Another activist asked on Twitter quipped Mama and the children came to applaud the revoke her British nationality. 

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