Saturday, February 26, 2011

Asma al-Assad: The Acceptable Face of Despotism - Update*

Asma al-Assad in Paris

This Vogue article about Asma al-Assad the chic wife of Syria's absolute dictator, Bashar al- Assad, so strains credulity that all I can manage is to give you a few quotes and invite you to read it for yourself:

'"The 35-year-old first lady’s central mission is to change the mind-set of six million Syrians under eighteen, encourage them to engage in what she calls “active citizenship.” “It’s about everyone taking shared responsibility in moving this country forward, about empowerment in a civil society. We all have a stake in this country; it will be what we make it.” 

'"In December, Asma al-Assad was in Paris to discuss her alliance with the Louvre. She dazzled a tough French audience at the International Diplomatic Institute, speaking without notes. “I’m not trying to disguise culture as anything more than it is,” she said, “and if I sound like I’m talking politics, it’s because we live in a politicized region, a politicized time, and we are affected by that.”

'"The French ambassador to Syria, Eric Chevallier, was there: “She managed to get people to consider the possibilities of a country that’s modernizing itself, that stands for a tolerant secularism in a powder-keg region, with extremists and radicals pushing in from all sides—and the driving force for that rests largely on the shoulders of one couple. I hope they’ll make the right choices for their country and the region. ”

'"Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

"'A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. “We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn’t.” There’s a cross next to Asma’s name. “I shouted,” she confesses. “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”'

You have to hand it to Assad, he chose well, just as King Hussein and his son did: educated, sophisticated Westernized women who present a beautiful surface masking their authoritarian regimes. Check out the website Arab First Ladies for more on this phenomenon. But during this revolutionary period, it seems the first ladies are becoming a focal point for discontent from their own people.

* I should have been paying more attention these last couple of years because it seems that there has been a plethora (in this case more than one is too much) of puff pieces about Asma simply because she is very pretty and stylish. Check out this breathless fashion ode to her in HuffPo. For a media site that wastes no time bashing Israel HuffPo is certainly comfortable giving comfort to tyrants. 

1 comment:

  1. What an outrageous piece of propaganda. I guess its "whats in vogue" these days.



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