Bashar and Asma al-Asad have a serious image problem, and for obvious reason. Over the last year, the Syrian president has ordered his troops to kill unarmed civilians in an effort to repress an uprising against his regime. In doing so, he is responsible for the murder of over 9,000 people in over 13 months. His wife, once thought of as Western-leaning and thus a reformer, has turned out to be no better than he. In emails recently leaked, the world’s eyes were finally opened to how little she cared for the Syrian people and that she, not Bashar, is “the real dictator”, as she proudly proclaimed.
But the Asads now would like to roll-back that image. This week, Syrian state TV aired a video of Bashar and Asma joining hundreds of volunteers in packing cartons of flour, sugar, cooking oil, and pasta for victims of fighting in Homs — the worst-hit Syrian city and Asma’s ancestral home.
The Syrian first couple have tried to portray themselves as Western-leaning reformers. Here, President Bashar al-Asad and his wife Asma walk along a street in Paris in December 2010. (Photo: MIGUEL MEDINA/AFP/Getty Images)
Someone in their close circle of friends should notify the Asads that there will be no changing their image, especially for Asma. The calls for her to act are only increasing. This week, the wives of the British and German ambassadors to the UN released a video asking Syria’s first lady to “stop being a bystander” while juxtaposing pictures of an elegant Asma against images of Syrian women fighting for their lives, and dead and wounded children. “Asma, when you kiss your own children goodnight, another mother will find the place next to her empty,” the narrator of the video says.
Meanwhile, in Homs and other opposition areas the shelling and fighting continues, despite the nine-day old ceasefire that Asad agreed to uphold. On Wednesday, anti-regime protesters swarmed the vehicles of a team of UN peacekeepers, demanding arms for the rebel Free Syrian Army. A banner plastered to one UN car read: “The butcher continues killings. The observers continue observing, and the people continue with their revolution. We bow only to God.”