Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Asma al-Assad

The Channel 4 documentary The Real Mr and Mrs Assad was fascinating because of what it left as a central enigma - that is, what their marriage is 'really' like, which, of course, it could never answer - only novelists can go into those inner workings, and even in novels the reality remains moot. Asma Assad was blamed for lending legitimacy to the regime through her Englishness and her beauty, and there have been calls upon her by the wives of the German and British ambassadors to the United Nations, asking her to stand up for peace and urge her husband to end the bloodshed in her country. In the program there was a moment that struck me as misogynistic when she was said to have shopped online for Parisian fashion while a massacre was taking place. Very big questions are raised here about the role that individuals can play in a terrible situation like that currently in Syria, and what was damagingly lacking from the program was the terror that the Assad family must feel from its vulnerability in composing a regime out of minority factions (including Christians) in the face of the Sunni majority. The atrocities which Assad and his brother and his cousins are committing are clearly in response to that vulnerability, and so, when you imagine marital discussions by the Assads you have to imagine the husband describing that situation. On Channel 4 they interviewed an old schoolfriend who said that 'Emma' (as she was known at school) must surely now be appalled. Maybe she is - she, herself, is Sunni and her family came originally from Homs - and it's very puzzling to imagine a former London schoolgirl, then computer scientist then investment banker sitting in the midst of these horrors shopping online for Chanel.It's impossible to know what she might have said to her husband in private, but what you do know is that if she tried to act against him and his family of monsters she'd be in terrible danger.