Asma Assad - glowing article in Vogue 3/2011 now scrubbed from internet

JGeropoulas

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#1
Since this article has been completely scrubbed from the internet at this point because it completely undermines the western propaganda about Assad (e.g. who chose to become an eye surgeon "because there very little blood involved"), I thought it should be preserved online here. As "The Atlantic" wrote in January, 2012, "In February, Vogue magazine published, for the benefit of its 11.7 million readers, an article titled "A Rose in the Desert" about the first lady of Syria. Asma al-Assad has British roots, wears designer fashion, worked for years in banking, and is married to...Bashar al-Assad... The glowing article praised the Assads as a "wildly democratic" family-focused couple who vacation in Europe, foster Christianity, are at ease with American celebrities, made theirs the "safest country in the Middle East," and want to give Syria a "brand essence."

Vogue's editors defended the controversial article as "a way of opening a window into this world a little bit," conceding only that Assad's Syria is "not as secular as we might like." A senior editor responsible for the story told me the magazine stood by it. A few weeks later, the article and all references to it were removed from Vogue's website without explanation. In August, The Hill reported that U.S. lobbying firm Brown Lloyd James had been paid $5,000 per month by the Syrian government to arrange for and manage the Vogue article.

Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert
Joan Juliet Buck
VOGUE Magazine, March 2011

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.
Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.
Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.
And then there’s her cultural mission: “People tend to see Syria as artifacts and history,” she says. “For us it’s about the accumulation of cultures, traditions, values, customs. It’s the difference between hardware and software: the artifacts are the hardware, but the software makes all the difference—the customs and the spirit of openness. We have to make sure that we don’t lose that. . . . ” Here she gives an apologetic grin. “You have to excuse me, but I’m a banker—that brand essence.”

That brand essence includes the distant past. There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

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. ”

Damascus evokes a dusty version of a Mediterranean hill town in an Eastern-bloc country. The courtyard of the Umayyad Mosque at night looks exactly like St. Mark’s square in Venice. When I first arrive, I’m met on the tarmac by a minder, who gives me a bouquet of white roses and lends me a Syrian cell phone; the head minder, a high-profile American PR, joins us the next day. The first lady’s office has provided drivers, so I shop and see sights in a bubble of comfort and hospitality. On the rare occasions I am out alone, a random series of men in leather jackets seems to be keeping close tabs on what I am doing and where I am headed.
assad1.jpg

“I like things I can touch. I like to get out and meet people and do things,” the first lady says as we set off for a meeting in a museum and a visit to an orphanage. “As a banker, you have to be so focused on the job at hand that you lose the experience of the world around you. My husband gave me back something I had lost.”

She slips behind the wheel of a plain SUV, a walkie-talkie and her cell thrown between the front seats and a Syrian-silk Louboutin tote on top. She does what the locals do—swerves to avoid crazy men who run across busy freeways, misses her turn, checks your seat belt, points out sights, and then can’t find a parking space. When a traffic cop pulls her over at a roundabout, she lowers the tinted window and dips her head with a playful smile. The cop’s eyes go from slits to saucers.

Her younger brother Feras, a surgeon who moved to Syria to start a private health-care group, says, “Her intelligence is both intellectual and emotional, and she’s a master at harmonizing when, and how much, to use of each one.”

In the Saint Paul orphanage, maintained by the Melkite–Greek Catholic patriarchate and run by the Basilian sisters of Aleppo, Asma sits at a long table with the children. Two little boys in new glasses and thick sweaters are called Yussuf. She asks them what kind of music they like. “Sad music,” says one. In the room where she’s had some twelve computers installed, the first lady tells a nun, “I hope you’re letting the younger children in here go crazy on the computers.” The nun winces: “The children are afraid to learn in case they don’t have access to computers when they leave here,” she says.

In the courtyard by the wall down which Saint Paul escaped in a basket 2,000 years ago, an old tree bears gigantic yellow fruit I have never seen before. Citrons. Cédrats in French.

Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”

“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.

“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?
assad2.jpg
The presidential family lives surrounded by neighbors in a modern apartment in Malki. On Friday, the Muslim day of rest, Asma al-Assad opens the door herself in jeans and old suede stiletto boots, hair in a ponytail, the word happiness spelled out across the back of her T-shirt. At the bottom of the stairs stands the off-duty president in jeans—tall, long-necked, blue-eyed. A precise man who takes photographs and talks lovingly about his first computer, he says he was attracted to studying eye surgery “because it’s very precise, it’s almost never an emergency, and there is very little blood.”

The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”

There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.

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.”
assad3.jpg
“The first challenge for us was, Who’s going to define our lives, us or the position?” says the president. “We wanted to live our identity honestly.”

They announced their marriage in January 2001, after the ceremony, which they kept private. There was deliberately no photograph of Asma. “The British media picked that up as: Now she’s moved into the presidential palace, never to be seen again!” says Asma, laughing.

They had a reason: “She spent three months incognito,” says the president. “Before I had any official engagement,” says the first lady, “I went to 300 villages, every governorate, hospitals, farms, schools, factories, you name it—I saw everything to find out where I could be effective. A lot of the time I was somebody’s ‘assistant’ carrying the bag, doing this and that, taking notes. Nobody asked me if I was the first lady; they had no idea.”

“That way,” adds the president, “she started her NGO before she was ever seen in public as my wife. Then she started to teach people that an NGO is not a charity.”

Neither of them believes in charity for the sake of charity. “We have the Iraqi refugees,” says the president. “Everybody is talking about it as a political problem or as welfare, charity. I say it’s neither—it’s about cultural philosophy. We have to help them. That’s why the first thing I did is to allow the Iraqis to go into schools. If they don’t have an education, they will go back as a bomb, in every way: terrorism, extremism, drug dealers, crime. If I have a secular and balanced neighbor, I will be safe.”

When Angelina Jolie came with Brad Pitt for the United Nations in 2009, she was impressed by the first lady’s efforts to encourage empowerment among Iraqi and Palestinian refugees but alarmed by the Assads’ idea of safety.

“My husband was driving us all to lunch,” says Asma al-Assad, “and out of the corner of my eye I could see Brad Pitt was fidgeting. I turned around and asked, ‘Is anything wrong?’ ”

“Where’s your security?” asked Pitt.

“So I started teasing him—‘See that old woman on the street? That’s one of them! And that old guy crossing the road?

That’s the other one!’ ” They both laugh.

The president joins in the punch line: “Brad Pitt wanted to send his security guards here to come and get some training!”
assad4.jpg After lunch, Asma al-Assad drives to the airport, where a Falcon 900 is waiting to take her to Massar in Latakia, on the coast. When she lands, she jumps behind the wheel of another SUV waiting on the tarmac. This is the kind of surprise visit she specializes in, but she has no idea how many kids will turn up at the community center on a rainy Friday.

As it turns out, it’s full. Since the first musical notation was discovered nearby, at Ugarit, the immaculate Massar center in Latakia is built around music. Local kids are jamming in a sound booth; a group of refugee Palestinian girls is playing instruments. Others play chess on wall-mounted computers. These kids have started online blood banks, run marathons to raise money for dialysis machines, and are working on ways to rid Latakia of plastic bags. Apart from a few girls in scarves, you can’t tell Muslims from Christians.

Asma al-Assad stands to watch a laborious debate about how—and whether—to standardize the Arabic spelling of the word Syria. Then she throws out a curve ball. “I’ve been advised that we have to close down this center so as to open another one somewhere else,” she says. Kids’ mouths drop open. Some repress tears. Others are furious. One boy chooses altruism: “That’s OK. We know how to do it now; we’ll help them.”

Then the first lady announces, “That wasn’t true. I just wanted to see how much you care about Massar.”

As the pilot expertly avoids sheet lightning above the snow-flecked desert on the way back, she explains, “There was a little bit of formality in what they were saying to me; it wasn’t real. Tricks like this help—they became alive, they became passionate. We need to get past formalities if we are going to get anything done.”

Two nights later it’s the annual Christmas concert by the children of Al-Farah Choir, run by the Syrian Catholic Father Elias Zahlawi. Just before it begins, Bashar and Asma al-Assad slip down the aisle and take the two empty seats in the front row. People clap, and some call out his nickname:
assad5.jpg
Two hundred children dressed variously as elves, reindeers, or candy canes share the stage with members of the national orchestra, who are done up as elves. The show becomes a full-on songfest, with the elves and reindeer and candy canes giving their all to “Hallelujah” and “Joy to the World.” The carols slide into a more serpentine rhythm, an Arabic rap group takes over, and then it’s back to Broadway mode. The president whispers, “All of these styles belong to our culture. This is how you fight extremism—through art.”

Brass bells are handed out. Now we’re all singing “Jingle Bell Rock,” 1,331 audience members shaking their bells, singing, crying, and laughing.

“This is the diversity you want to see in the Middle East,” says the president, ringing his bell. “This is how you can have peace!”
 

angelburst29

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#3
Brace yourself - this is from the UK's Guardian ...

The journalist who wrote the hagiography has hit back at her former employer over who was responsible for its tone

Back-dated Tue 31 Jul 2012 - Asma al-Assad and that Vogue piece: take two!
Asma al-Assad and that Vogue piece: take two!

If she had looked even a little more closely Joan Juliet Buck might have noticed the thorns. In 2010 she wrote an article headlined "A Rose in the Desert" for US Vogue, praising the beauty and philanthropy of Asma al-Assad, wife of the Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad. The piece was published in the March 2011 "Power" issue just as the Arab Spring was erupting in the Middle East. It caused a storm of criticism and was pulled off Vogue's website in May 2011, as it became clear how many of his own people Assad was willing to kill. Now Buck, whose Vogue contract was not renewed, has written a riposte to the furore.

And yet, somehow, the mea culpa is almost as disastrous as the initial interview. From describing Asma as "the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies" in the original piece, Buck switches to the equally hyperbolic title "first lady of hell" and calls Bashar "the devil". Syria is no longer the orientalist fantasy of fashion magazines – the land of silk and ruins she described in her Vogue piece–- where Christian Louboutin has a home and Sting drops by. Instead, it is – equally unrealistically – a byword for evil, "Syria. The name itself sounds sinister like syringe, or hiss," Buck writes. (This ridiculous description at least has had the cheering effect of sparking a funny Twitter hashtag #countriesbyvoguewriters - with tweets such as: New Zealand. Because the old Zealand is so last season)

The title of the Newsweek article is "Mrs Assad duped me", but it is never clear how. When Asma told her the Assad home was run on "wildly democractic" guidelines (her children "voted" to buy a chandelier made from comic books), did Buck think it meant her husband's election hadn't been rigged? Or when Asma stressed her NGO's work in making young people engage in "active citizenship", did Buck take it to mean Asma would cheer on protestors who sought to topple her husband?

In fact it's hard to tell if Buck asked Asma – or Bashar whom she also met – any real questions at all. Certainly not why anyone would marry a man whose father slaughtered 20,000 people in three weeks. Nor even why, as she details in Newsweek, Buck was being followed. (In fact she seems more worried by the fashion sense of her stalkers than their intent, describing them as "wearing shoes from the 1980s and curiously ill-fitting leather jackets"). She did not ask why her phone and computer were bugged, or even why she had spotted something that looks like a mobile prison in the souk – all of which she brings up only in the Newsweek piece.

Buck does admit she should have done more research - she recollects asking a documentary maker, someone with a house in Aleppo, and an "aesthete" for their views. It's hardly rigorous but even so she manages to ignore a "passing reference" to extrajudicial killings to focus on Asma's looks ("to all appearances English").

To be fair to Buck she does explain that she had not wanted to meet the Assads, but Vogue told her they wanted no focus on politics at all. She also says she alerted her editors to her disquiet over the timing of the article. And that she was appalled at the regime's subsequent brutality. It seems clear that Vogue is equally to blame for the controversy.

But perhaps the telling point is when Buck admits she really wanted to see Syria's historical sites and so weighed up in her mind what the worst that could happen would be, "I would write a piece for Vogue that missed the deeper truth about its subject," before adding, oddly for a journalist, "I had learned long ago that the only person I could be truthful about was myself." So why write it at all?

~~~
Link to Sputnik article that C.a. Posted in another thread:
Russia Begins Operations in Syria: End Game for the US Empire?

08.08.2018 - Syrian President Bashar Assad's Wife Diagnosed With Breast Cancer
Syrian President Bashar Assad's Wife Diagnosed With Breast Cancer

The official account for the Presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic announced on August 8 that Bashar al-Assad’s wife Asma has been diagnosed with a malignant breast tumor.

Syria’s 42-year-old first lady has begun treatment for early stage breast cancer, the official Twitter account on presidential news announced, also posting a picture from a Damascus hospital.

The same picture of her with her husband Bashar al-Assad was shared on Asma’s Instagram account, with social media users wishing her a speedy recovery.

Asma, who is a mother-of-three, was born in London, UK in 1975 to Syrian parents, and graduated from King’s College in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in computer science and French literature.

After her graduation, she started a career as an economics analyst at Deutsche Bank Group in the hedge fund management division. In 1998, Asma joined the investment banking division of J.P. Morgan, and was set to pursue an MBA at Harvard, but met her husband and moved to Syria.

~~~
The Guardian's spin ...

Wed 8 Aug 2018 - Asma al-Assad diagnosed with breast cancer, Syria says
Asma al-Assad diagnosed with breast cancer, Syria says

The British-born wife of Bashar al-Assad, Asma, has been diagnosed with breast cancer, the Syrian president’s office has announced via its social media accounts.

The postings included a photograph of the first lady with an IV line in her arm and smiling at her husband, who is sitting next to her, while apparently undergoing treatment in a hospital.

“With strength and confidence and faith, Mrs Asma al-Assad begins the preliminary stage of treatment for a malignant tumor in the breast that was discovered early,” the statement said. “From its heart, the presidency and all those who work in it wish Mrs Asma a speedy recovery.”

The public acknowledgment is a rare disclosure of a serious health matter in the top echelons of an Arab state. Ailing autocrats in the region usually treat such issues as grave national security secrets. The long illness of the president’s father, Hafez, who ruled Syria for decades, was a closely guarded secret even as he appeared frailer in public in the last months of his life.

A controversial figure, Asma al-Assad has rarely spoken publicly about the civil war in Syria, which has raged for more than seven years during which has claimed half a million lives. The former banker, who has dual nationality, has instead appeared at public events with her husband and focused on humanitarian initiatives in government-controlled parts of Syria, as well as in images comforting government soldiers.

Once dubbed by Vogue as a “rose in the desert” championing democratic reforms in Syria, she has been personally sanctioned by the European Union and has faced calls to strip her of British citizenship since the start of the conflict. In a rare interview in 2016 with the the Kremlin-backed TV station RT, she acknowledged the suffering on both sides of the war and said she had rejected offers of asylum outside the country during the crisis.

She married the Syrian president in 2000, and they have three children.

~~~
Back-dated 16.04.2017 - UK Parliament Members Call for Stripping Assad's Wife Asma of UK Citizenship
UK Parliament Members Call for Stripping Assad's Wife Asma of UK Citizenship

The UK Parliament members urged the Home Office to strip Syrian President Bashar Assad's London-born wife Asma of her UK citizenship for being part of Syria's "propaganda machine," local media reported Sunday.

According to The Sunday Times newspaper, the request to Home Office was sent on Saturday night.

"The time has come where we go after [President] Assad in every which way, including people like Mrs Assad, who is very much part of the propaganda machine that is committing war crimes," Nadhim Zahawi, a conservative parliament member, who sits in the House of Commons' foreign affairs committee was quoted as saying.

Asma Assad reportedly holds dual citizenship of the United Kingdom and Syria.

The proposal was triggered by Asma Assad's recent posts in social media, such as Instagram, Facebook and Telegram, after over 80 people had been reportedly killed in the Syrian province of Idlib last week as a result of an incident involving chemical weapons. She blamed the West, who accused Damascus of carrying out a chemical attack, for spreading misinformation on the issue.

The Syrian government refuted the allegations about its involvement in the incident in Idlib, saying that it would never attack the civilians and claiming that Damascus has no such weapons since 2014.
 

Arwenn

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#8
Thanks for posting the article above fabric, definitely worth reading. It is absolutely shameful how blatantly the MSM lie, and have gone on a relentless smear campaign to persecute Asma. This quote from one of the hit pieces just shows how pathological people often accuse others of the very things they are guilty of. Substitute Assad below for US/UK//Israel/NATO and it makes way more sense:

“The Assad regime has a seemingly infinite capacity for evil, and an inability to be touched by compassion. At the very best he is dangerously deluded about what is happening, and the atrocities he has ordered. But most likely he is a monster.”
 

Voyageur

The Living Force
FOTCM Member
#9
Thought to add this one from SoTT:

Asma Al-Assad: How Western Propaganda Turned "A Rose in the Desert" Into "A Cheerleader For Evil"

Ask a westerner the question of who is married to Al-Assad and if they know anything about her. The response will often be no, not a thing; but they know the husband is a brutal dictator.

There are some excellent video interviews with Asma and I've sent some to people who are utterly amazed. They will write back saying that the just had no idea, and in context, they start to ask themselves what else in Syria did they not know...

No wonder the press keep this Rose from the public.
 
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