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In A Bid To Boost Image, Assad's Wife Turns To Instagram

A photo on the Syrian presidency's Instagram page shows first lady Asma al-Assad participating in a Special Olympics event in June 2012.
A photo on the Syrian presidency's Instagram page shows first lady Asma al-Assad participating in a Special Olympics event in June 2012.
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By Heather Maher
If you don’t know who she is, the woman in the photographs looks like a sympathetic, caring figure as she ladles out soup to refugees, hugs old women, and smiles kindly at small children.

But this is Asma al-Assad, whose husband, Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, has presided for the past two and one-half years over a bloody civil war that has killed more than 100,000 Syrians and displaced millions from their homes.

Some of the most recent images of the Syrian first lady were uploaded to the relatively new "Syrian President" Instagram page in the past several days -- even as international condemnation was building over Assad's suspected use of chemical weapons and U.S. President Barack Obama was vowing to lead a military response.

Along with photos of her husband striding through cheering crowds, they seem to be part of a larger strategy by the Assad family to act as if nothing unusual is happening in their country.

Few are buying it.

Western news media have called the latest photos of Asma al-Assad "sick" and "surreal." Online, they have elicited furious, profanity-laced comments, most unprintable. Some are in Arabic, others in English. A few express support, but most are full of condemnation.
Assad posing with a Syrian business student in a picture posted on September 4.Assad posing with a Syrian business student in a picture posted on September 4.
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Assad posing with a Syrian business student in a picture posted on September 4.
Assad posing with a Syrian business student in a picture posted on September 4.


Under a picture of the British-born first lady handing a bowl of soup to a teenage refugee, a person in the U.K. wrote, "I bet you [expletive] gassed that boy afterwards or better still poisoned his meal. I'm ashamed to be British if you still have British citizenship, and Asma if you ever [expletive] return to Britain you will be leaving it in a [expletive] box, burn in hell..."

Another person asked, "Does this help with the guilt?"

A photo of Asma al-Assad preparing to roll a basketball toward a small child evoked for many people the disturbing images of rows of dead children who were killed in the August 21 gas attack.

"I get it. You post a picture of the children you gas before you kill them so they will always be remembered. So sweet."

"So these children remind you of the ones you gassed?"

And there’s this prediction: "Somebody will be rolling your head down the street soon, just like that."

'Element of Light'

Irony seems lost on her. The photos show that the slim 38-year-old showed up to feed hungry refugees wearing a prominent blue electronic bracelet on her wrist that allows weight-conscious wearers keep track of how many calories they burn each day.
Smiling for the camera: the Syrian first lady preparing food for needy families during Ramadan.Smiling for the camera: the Syrian first lady preparing food for needy families during Ramadan.
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Smiling for the camera: the Syrian first lady preparing food for needy families during Ramadan.
Smiling for the camera: the Syrian first lady preparing food for needy families during Ramadan.


This isn't the first time Asma al-Assad has used a media platform to boost her image. A gushing profile headlined "A Rose In The Desert" appeared in the American edition of "Vogue" magazine in the spring of 2011, the same month the regime began cracking down on antigovernment demonstrators.

"Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic -- the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies," the opening paragraph reads. "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."

As opposition deaths mounted, embarrassed editors quietly pulled the piece from the "Vogue" website.

"The Hill" newspaper later discovered that the Syrian government had paid the U.S. lobbying firm Brown Lloyd James a monthly retainer of $5,000 to set up and manage the production of the piece.

The Assads' Instagram account has landed them on one U.S. website's list of what it calls "The Dictators of Instagram." Members include Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and Uzbek President Islam Karimov's daughter, Gulnara Karimova.

It's also inspired an Instagram imitator, "Real Syrian Presidency." Instead of happy pictures of the first couple it posts pictures of children killed in the war.
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jack from: US
September 06, 2013 14:47
RFERL just follows usual government propaganda with vilifying Syrian first lady and embellishing Al Qaeda rebels who kill everyone who disagree with Saudi and US government's jihad agenda. As results of G20 summit shows, even faithful US minions now see US government as Al Qaeda affiliate who is waging war on Christians, Alawites, Shia Muslims, everyone whom US government does not approve. US government is the major sponsor of terrorism

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 07, 2013 07:31
Aha, and while Asma (may God bless her and give her, Bashar and the entire Syrian people strength and success in their resistance against the US-Israeli-Saudi agression!) is "boosting her image", the democratically elected US clown is getting ever more isolated internationally: out of the 20 heads of states of the G20, only 5 supported the criminal plan of attack that is so desperately being pushed ahead by the US military industrial complex and the AIPAC. 15 heads of states - inculding Merkel - rejected the war-mongers' plan.
Now even Hollande is getting more cautious and wants to wait (wow!) for the report of the UN commission on chemical arms.
VIDEO: Syria chemical attack is 'rebels' provocation in hope of intervention' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SqNPdeN5K3E&feature=youtube_gdata_player

by: James from: CA, USA
September 08, 2013 03:47
Why does RFERL support al-Qaeda/FSA rebels? Asma al-Assad had nothing to do with the Sarin attacks by the rebels in March nor the most recent attack, blame for which has not been evidenced. Stop jumping the gun RFERL; this is pathetic propaganda. She is the President's wife, and is carrying out humanitarian services--that's all.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 08, 2013 14:08
Dear James from CA, the RFE/RL supports the al-Qaeda terrorists because it is funded by the govt of the United States. The govt of the US is in turn on the pay of the Saudi royal family which is the major force behind most Sunni terrorist organizations in the Middle East, Central Asia, Caucasus and elsewhere in the world. I hope this answer helps :-).
Cheers from Vienna!

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 08, 2013 06:09
VIDEO: 'G20 marks end of Washington's era of dominance' - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wsHgJKibpWc&feature=youtube_gdata_player

by: sara from: cali
September 08, 2013 15:37
dear readers:

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) is a broadcaster funded by the U.S. Congress.

Founded as a propaganda news source in 1949 by the National Committee for a Free Europe, RFE/RL received funds from the Central Intelligence Agency until 1972[5] During the earliest years of Radio Free Europe's existence, the CIA and the U.S. State Department issued broad policy directives, and a system evolved where broadcast policy was determined through negotiation between the CIA, the U.S. State Department, and RFE staff.

by: Azim from: Chechnya
September 09, 2013 11:12
It seems the KGB unleashed all its English-speaking trolls to trash this innocuous piece.
In Response

by: Eugenio from: Vienna
September 10, 2013 19:38
Aha, whereas the Saudis sent al-Qaeda terrorists to share with us their insightful comments. Please go ahead, Azim, we are all ears :-)).

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