It’s not just the dissidents of the Middle East who are networking on the net. The First Lady (or, under the circumstances, the First Tyrantess) of Syria, Asma Al-Assad, appears to have posted high-fashion photos of herself on Facebook .
Somehow, amid the news in recent years of Syria’s clandestine North Korean-abetted nuclear reactor project; support for the terrorists of Hezbollah and Hamas; fingerprints on the murder of Lebanon’s former prime minister; corrupt dealings with Saddam Hussein followed by support for terrorist attacks inside Iraq; horrific prisons; jailing and torture of dissidents, and whatnot, I’d missed Asma’s page — complete with her designer shoes, and handbags and fancy clothes and jewelry — on Facebook.
But the Reform Party of Syria (or RPS), a U.S.-based private group whose members would like to see democratic rule in Syria, has just called attention to it, in an item headlined: “Marie-Antoinette Al-Assad.” RPS reports that “The issue was brought to our attention by angry Syrians inside Syria. People who work with poor families. Such as mothers who cannot afford to buy milk for their children and fathers who cannot find work and go hungry 24/7.”
RPS continues: “Syrians are poor and hungry, asphyxiated by lack of liberties and stifling oppression. While their miserable lives carry them on a day-by-day basis, whether it comes to food or a roof over their heads, our own Marie-Antoinette is having none of that.”
I went looking for some more background on Asma Al-Assad, born and educated in London, with a career in merchant banking before she married Bashar Al-Assad in 2000 — the year he took over from his father, longtime and brutal dictator of Syria, Hafez Al-Assad. Having in short order googled my way to a piece on the Huffington Post, I found I’ve come late to the party. Earlier this month, Asma Al-Assad told Britain’s Sky News that she would like to welcome the Obamas to Damascus. Excited about the idea, Huffington recently featured a spread of “our favorite Asma looks,” enthusing about “her love for Christian Louboutin platforms, sunglasses, and her signature wavy hair.” (Note to Michelle Obama: Whatever the fashion thrills this might portend, don’t do it!).
All told, Asma Al-Assad has better taste than Imelda Marcos in shoes, but much worse taste in regimes to go with them. As tyrants go, Bashar leaves the Philippines’ late Ferdinand in the dust (that’s safe to say, even with no love lost for Marcos). You can find more of Asma’s fashion looks here (with Bashar in Paris) and a gardening episode here. You can read about Syria’s “ties to the world’s most notorious terrorists” and strengthening ties with “fellow state sponsor of terrorism, Iran,” in this 2008 State Department report on State Sponsors of Terrorism. You can read more about Syria as one of the world’s most repressive regimes here and here.