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Asma Assad: The pretty face of a brutal regime

As Syria's bloodshed deepens, the British-born first lady has become an object of contempt for many, a Marie Antoinette figure who shopped online for crystal-encrusted Christian Louboutin stilettos while her country burned.

As Syria's bloodshed deepens, the British-born first lady has become an object of contempt for many, a Marie Antoinette figure who shopped online for crystal-encrusted Christian Louboutin stilettos while her country burned.AP

24 Mar 11:18 am IST

     

Beriut: As Syria's bloodshed deepens, the British-born first lady has become an object of contempt for many, a Marie Antoinette figure who shopped online for crystal-encrusted Christian Louboutin stilettos while her country burned.

The European Union slapped sanctions Friday on Asma Assad, the 36-year-old wife of the president who for the past decade offered a veneer of respectability to one of the world's most opaque and ruthless dictatorships.

The Syrian government's ferocious crackdown on a year-old uprising has shattered the image of her as a glamorous, reform-minded woman who could help bring progressive values to a country that has been ruled by the Assad family dynasty for more than 40 years.

The European action - the latest punishment imposed by world leaders on Syria for its crackdown - bans her from traveling to EU countries and freezing any assets she may have there.

"She is one of the regime's deceptions," said Amer Mattar, a 26-year-old Syrian who recently fled the country because of the violence that has killed 8,000 people in the past year. "She is definitely part of this ugly formula in Syria."

A trove of emails - purported to be from the private accounts of Bashar and Asma Assad and published last month by London's Guardian newspaper - have helped unmask that deception. They appear to capture the first lady splurging on luxury goods as violence sweeps her country, placing orders for expensive jewelry, bespoke furniture, and a 2,650-pound ($4,200) vase from Harrods department store in London.

Born Asma Akhras to a prominent Syrian family living in the UK, the future first lady grew up in the west London suburbs, a generally affluent, quiet part of the city with comfortable houses, tree-lined streets and large parks.

In a haunting twist, her family is originally from Homs, a city in central Syria that regime forces have besieged with tanks, snipers and relentless shelling to crush the resistance....
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