It may have been the worst-timed, and most tin-eared, magazine article in decades.
“Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic — the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies,” writer Joan Juliet Buck began her profile of Syria’s first lady in Vogue last year. Amid descriptions of Assad’s “energetic grace” and Christian Louboutin shoes, Buck wrote: “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.’ ”
Well, perhaps. But just as Buck’s profile appeared, Assad’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, began a bloody crackdown on his opponents. Since then, about 9,000 Syrians have been slaughtered by security forces loyal to Assad, Syria’s hereditary president.
Meanwhile, rather than the progressive, arts-loving, British-educated banker of Buck’s telling, Asma al-Assad has emerged as the Marie Antoinette of the Arab Spring. E-mails leaked by Syrian opposition groups last month showed that she was involved in shopping online for jewelry, chandeliers and designer shoes in boutiques in Paris and London while her government’s violent repression was underway.