From Damascus with love
THROUGHOUT Syria's uprising, a year old this week, many have pondered what is going on in the minds of Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, once a glamourous patron of Syrian civil society. A cache of 3,000 personal emails alleged to be from the ruling couple puts paid to any view that either was seriously looking for a way out of the crisis. As security forces were killing 8,000 civilians and defecting soldiers, Mrs Assad was shopping for a $4,100 vase from Harrods, a fondue set and Christian Louboutin shoes. Meanwhile her husband was using a false postal address to evade American sanctions and sate his musical cravings on iTunes (his taste is eclectic, ranging from Right Said Fred to New Order).
Mrs Assad is one of three women who correspond most frequently by email—in English—with Mr Assad according to messages handed over to the Guardian newspaper by Syrian activists. The activists say they monitored the ruling couple's accounts from June 2011 until February this year after a disgruntled regime insider leaked the login details. (The Guardian has confirmed with some who appear to have sent emails and they seem genuine.) The other two are young women educated in America who acted as media advisors to the president.
In contrast to the tendency of his father and former president Hafez to turn to strong right-hand men, Mr Assad appears to have surrounded himself with inexperienced sycophants. In one email an advisor, who at one point refers to Mr Assad as "the dude", gushes how "this man is loved by his people".
Yet it is the sheer banality of the emails that has most insulted Syrians. Mr Assad comes across neither as a benign reformer trapped by circumstance nor as a brutal dictator, but as an immature man married to a shopaholic, both of whom are utterly detached from the revolt and violent crackdown that is pushing their country into chaos.
Post new comment