Asma Al-Assad

By Dickey, Christopher | Newsweek, March 12, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Asma Al-Assad

Dickey, Christopher, Newsweek

Byline: Christopher Dickey

Glamorous, charming, and smart, she was a darling of the Western press--until her dictator husband crossed the line.

By Christopher Dickey

Before her husband answered Syria's peaceful revolution with ruthless slaughter, before the country began careering toward civil war, Western reporters routinely used words like "elegant" and "intelligent" to describe Asma al-Assad. A Vogue profile of the British-born, highly educated banker, written before the uprising and headlined "A Rose in the Desert," told of a lissome 36-year-old who drove her own SUV, wore Christian Louboutin shoes, and ran a "wildly democratic" household--her three young kids could outvote their parents (including the president) on what furnishings to buy and where in the house to put them. The Syrian first lady came across as very much the young professional--and as the young mother trying to find a sane balance among all the demands on her time and energy. In her way, that's what she very probably was.

These days, people aren't sure what to make of her. As one Arab woman in her broad circle of acquaintances puts it, "When the West was trying to make a deal with Bashar [al-Assad], Asma was regarded as his asset: 'There must be something interesting about this man if he is married to this kind of woman.' But now that nobody likes Bashar anymore, everybody is saying, 'How can such an educated, elegant woman marry a monster like this? There must be something wrong with her!'?" Perhaps--just perhaps--the phrase to sum up Asma al-Assad is "the good wife." As far as anyone outside the family knows, she has stood by her man. Or, more likely, stood by her children while events overwhelmed her country, her people, and even her ancestral hometown--which happens to be Homs, ground zero in her husband's ferocious efforts to crush resistance to his rule.

She's seldom seen in public now. In January she attended a pep rally for Bashar, standing in the audience clutching one of her sons and her little girl.

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