Vogue writes about Assad’s wife. She is, apparently, a “rose in the desert“.
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.
The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”
Pass the sick bag.
It gets worse:
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!”
(Via Michael W)
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.”
But, hey, not too active.
Alec Macph adds:
Maybe it is because of common jealousy towards a younger, better dressed woman, but Clare Short has talked little of Asma. She is, however, deeply impressed by Bashar:
From south Lebanon, we went to Syria to meet the President, Foreign Minister, other Ministers and parliamentarians, the British ambassador and many others. The President lived for a long time in the UK. He is a charming and open man who, for a long time, was not going to be President and therefore took on the style of an ordinary western citizen. He is very popular in his country because he does not have a grandiose or fine-living style. He is keen to deliver significant reform in Syria, to open up the country and to improve the economic opportunities of the people, but he made it clear that the situation in the region made that difficult. Shortly after he took over, there was what has been called a “Damascus spring”—a sort of opening up. It is difficult to continue such reforms when there is such bitter division all around and organised extreme Islamist groups in the region.
The President stressed that the Syrian regime is secular and takes a tough line against Islamist insurgents, but that it was keen to work with others to help to stabilise the situation in Iraq. He deeply regretted the fact that the UK did not have, as he put it, an independent foreign policy. He said that, before Sir Nigel Sheinwald visited Syria for talks on behalf of our Prime Minister, he had been to Washington and that his view was that the UK could play a much more useful role if it had an independent policy, but sadly it did not and it continued to be a complete echo of US foreign policy.
Disgraceful human being.
Sarah AB adds: Alec’s comment made me think of an exchange from Katharine Burdekin’s sf novel Proud Man (1934) The beautiful far-future androgynous hero(ine), who has returned to the past of the 1930s and passes as a woman, says to his/her friend Leonora: “Andrew said no woman would tolerate me for more than a fortnight, as she would be so jealous.’ [Leonora] laughed gaily and said: ‘Whey then, he was a very ordinary fellow, after all. That’s a classic masculine prejudice … a very beautiful woman gets plenty of admiration from her own sex, and if she is nice to other women they will like her.’ (p.169)