“Asma al-Assad: A Rose of the Desert” in Vogue

Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert
by Joan Juliet Buck | photographed by James Nachtwey
Vogue, February 25, 2011

Asma al-Assad

Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. 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.

Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. ….

….The old al-Assad family apartment was remade into a child-friendly triple-decker playroom loft surrounded by immense windows on three sides. With neither shades nor curtains, it’s a fishbowl. Asma al-Assad likes to say, “You’re safe because you are surrounded by people who will keep you safe.” Neighbors peer in, drop by, visit, comment on the furniture. The president doesn’t mind: “This curiosity is good: They come to see you, they learn more about you. You don’t isolate yourself.”

There’s a decorated Christmas tree. Seven-year-old Zein watches Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland on the president’s iMac; her brother Karim, six, builds a shark out of Legos; and nine-year-old Hafez tries out his new electric violin. All three go to a Montessori school.

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. “We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn’t.” There’s a cross next to Asma’s name. “I shouted,” she confesses. “I can’t talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I’m not like that with my own children.”….

….And then there’s her cultural mission: “People tend to see Syria as artifacts and history,” she says. “For us it’s about the accumulation of cultures, traditions, values, customs. It’s the difference between hardware and software: the artifacts are the hardware, but the software makes all the difference—the customs and the spirit of openness. We have to make sure that we don’t lose that. . . . ”

That brand essence includes the distant past. There are 500,000 important ancient works of art hidden in storage; Asma al-Assad has brought in the Louvre to create a network of museums and cultural attractions across Syria, and asked Italian experts to help create a database of the 5,000 archaeological sites in the desert. “Culture,” she says, “is like a financial asset. We have an abundance of it, thousands of years of history, but we can’t afford to be complacent.”

In December, Asma al-Assad was in Paris to discuss her alliance with the Louvre. She dazzled a tough French audience at the International Diplomatic Institute, speaking without notes. “I’m not trying to disguise culture as anything more than it is,” she said, “and if I sound like I’m talking politics, it’s because we live in a politicized region, a politicized time, and we are affected by that.”….. Read the article

Comments (122)

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101. Norman said:

Yes you do and for that you are a ((mensch)) and i see hope .

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February 27th, 2011, 2:07 pm


102. Parent said:

Hi Nicholas92300
It could be a wishful thinking on my part, but, if this were to be true, it could indicate that either he or his family have decided that they can be safer away from Malki area.

The latest solidarity gathering in front of the nearby Libyan embassy, harmless as it me seemed to anyone, was probably a nightmare to the president security command.

Actually, should demonstrations erupt in that residential area, the roads can be easily blocked by demonstrators and the lion den would be surrounded.

Why choose Aleppo? It can be justified for the curious by claiming that it is the commerical capital. But come on, security and options for escape are much better afforded by staying in a seclusive villa, at the outskirts of the Aleppo, perhaps close to the highway to Latakia and the mountain.
He can run, but he can not hide!

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February 27th, 2011, 3:14 pm


103. NK said:


When there’s no existential threat to the Alawite way of life to begin with, I don’t see why the opposition have to prove there is not existential threat to the Alawite way of life!. Actually most Alawites are oppressed just as much as the rest of the Syrian population.
You want the opposition to PROVE there will be no discrimination against minorities if a revolution is to take place, but then that’s absolutely impossible under the current regime, since the opposition has no access to these minorities. So in other words, you want the regime to give the opposition more freedom to reach out to minorities, to convince them to rise up against the regime. Well I want a billion dollars too!.


What you said bring tears into my eyes, when you write things like this, you’re obviously oblivious to the fact that all the inequality present in that report, is the general rule for the entire population in Syria, yes there is no discrimination, the entire population is subjected to the same level of very low standards, and looks like, over the years, people don’t see these low standards as low anymore, they became the norm. What a tragedy.

– Legalized Inequality
I guess you’ve been living on another planet, it’s called EMERGENCY LAW.
المادة الرابعة: للحاكم العرفي أو نائبه أن يصدر أوامر كتابية باتخاذ جميع القيود أو التدابير الآتية أو بعضها وأن يحيل مخالفيها إلى المحاكم العسكرية.

أ- وضع قيود على حرية الأشخاص في الاجتماع والإقامة والتنقل والمرور في أماكن أو أوقات معينة، وتوقيف المشتبه فيه أو الخطرين على الأمن والنظام العام توقيفاً احتياطياً، والإجازة في تحري الأشخاص والأماكن في أي وقت، وتكليف أي شخص بتأدية أي عمل من الأعمال.

ب- مراقبة الرسائل والمخابرات أياً كان نوعها، ومراقبة الصحف والنشرات والملفات والرسوم والمطبوعات والإذاعات وجميع وسائل التعبير والدعاية والإعلان قبل نشرها وضبطها ومصادرتها وتعطيلها وإلغاء امتيازها وإغلاق أماكن طبعها.

ج- تحديد مواعيد فتح الأماكن العامة وإغلاقها.

د- سحب إجازات الأسلحة والذخائر والمواد المقابلة للانفجار والمفرقعات على اختلاف أنواعها والأمر بتسليمها وضبطها وإغلاق مخازن الأسلحة.

هـ- إخلاء بعض المناطق أو عزلها وتنظيم وسائل النقل وحصر المواصلات وتحديدها بين المناطق المختلفة.

و- الاستيلاء على أي منقول أو عقار وفرض الحراسة المؤقتة على اشركات والمؤسسات وتأجيل الديون والالتزامات المستحقة والتي تستحق على مايجري الاستيلاء عليه.

ز- تحديد العقوبات التي تفرض على مخالفة هذه الأوامر على ألا تزيد على الحبس مدة ثلاث سنوات وعلى الغرامة حتى ثلاثة آلاف ليرة سورية أو إحداهما. وإذا لم يحدد الأمر العقوبات على مخالفة أحكامه فيعاقب على مخالفتها بالحبس مدة لا تزيد على ستة أشهر وبغرامة لا تزيد على خمسمائة ليرة سورية أو بإحدى هاتين العقوبتين.

– Citizenship
Syrian women don’t have the right to give citizenship to their children!

– Income/Poverty
I hate to be the one to break this news to you, but most of Syrians are poor, you know things are messed up, when physicians have to work 2 jobs to support themselves let alone a family.

– Redistribution of Resources and Social Welfare
We all know this story goes …….

– Employment
Let’s say two applied for a job, one have a PHD from Harvard, the other know a Mukhbarat lieutenant, who do you think will get the job ?

– Land
I hope I don’t have to list all the public ( and sometimes private ) property that the Syrian government “rented for 99 years”, or in some cases flat out sold for cents on the dollar to influential people ( one person to be exact ) in the past few years.

– Education
Not only there’s discrimination against minorities in public schools, but also the whole system is underfunded in general, it’s actually inferior to what Syrians had during the FRENCH MANDATE, if that’s not irony, I don’t know what is.

– Arabic Language
Oh, pardon me, I forgot that Syrian minorities don’t want to teach their languages to their kids.

– Health
0.3% of Syrian population is over the age of 60, I don’t need to say anymore.

– Political Participation
It’s a number, it’s round, it has a big hole in the middle.

So, please don’t say that Syrians are in any way better than their Palestinian or Israeli Arabs counterparts. We are actually way worse, and to see that our standards of decent living has dropped so low that we can’t see that anymore is sad in every way imaginable. I’m not saying that Israel is an example to follow, hell no, they have a lot of problems themselves, but it’s about time for people in Syria to stop being content with what is, and start asking for what could be and should have been.

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February 27th, 2011, 4:11 pm


104. trustquest said:

Asma Al Assad,
It seems in this atmosphere Truth does not take long to surface.
Here is the article that expose the Vague writer or propagandist:


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February 28th, 2011, 3:04 pm


105. Zenobia said:

Wow. the whole SC family came out to debate that fluffy article. Clearly got everybody riled up.

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March 3rd, 2011, 2:06 am


106. why-discuss said:

National healthcare in Syria. What are the facts?

How does it compare to other arab countries?
In wikipedia, only Algeria, UAE and Syria are briefly mentionned, anyone aware of a comparaison study?


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March 3rd, 2011, 5:15 am


107. Off the Wall said:


Wikipeida’s article is well written, but the source of most information is in WHO reports. Here is the link to the most recent WHO Stats Report, which are mandated to also consider status with respect to accomplishing the UN Millennium Development Goals as well.

http://www.who.int/whosis/whostat/EN_WHS10_Full.pdf (English)

http://www.who.int/whosis/whostat/AR_WHS10_Full.pdf (Arabic)

and in Spanish, French, Russian, and Chinese as well. (All 6 UN Languages)

The full series (for other years) is available at

If you are interested in the issue of education, then there are two key reports from UNESCO, one that was issued last year on the status of secientific research from UNESCO’s Natural Science Sector/Division of Science Policy. The chapter on Arab States is found at


A very recent report on education was released only two days ago, with the theme of impacts of conflicts on education. But more important than the full report is a recent blog by the report’s team leader on the education failure of Arab States, and its role in recent events


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March 3rd, 2011, 6:16 am


108. Joshua said:

Zenobia, Welcome back. We have missed you -the true Queen of the Desert

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March 3rd, 2011, 11:32 pm


109. Zenobia said:

: )) thanks, that’s so sweet.

well… I came out of my blogging retirement and got in my two cents (or more) over on the comments under the nasty rebuttal by Max Fisher at the Atlantic about the Vogue piece …over here…


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March 4th, 2011, 1:56 am


110. Malik Al-Abdeh said:

The Vogue piece on Asma Al-Assad is not a one-off. It’s part of a well-organized and well-financed image makeover executed by corporate lobbyists and image consultants, not unlike that which The Monitor Group has been doing for the Gaddafis. Read more:


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March 5th, 2011, 5:05 pm


111. Chicago Boyz » Blog Archive » Going out of fashion, fast… said:

[…] but where does that leave the lovely Asma al-Assad [in Vogue this February] […]

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June 9th, 2011, 1:01 am


112. mICHAEL said:


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September 25th, 2011, 8:43 pm


113. LATEST NEWS - asma syria november 2011 - LATEST NEWS said:

[…] by James Nachtwey Vogue, February 25, 2011. Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic …http://www.joshualandis.com/bl ..Babalfaqeer: Asma al-Assad First Lady of SyriaFirst Lady of Syria Asma al-Assad Asma al-Assad […]

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December 13th, 2011, 1:09 pm


114. Assad and the Cult of Personality | EthioLeaks said:

[…] as good as his local Arabic. His mother is a knock-out, a “rose in a desert” according to a Vogue profile. Reluctant to take over a family business from his father, he interrupted his medical training in […]

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January 26th, 2012, 5:01 am


115. D. Lynn Carmichael said:

Asma al-Assad’s father, Dr. Fawaz Akhras, spoke to the U.K.’s Express, and his comments ran yesterday (Sunday, 03/04/12). He says his daughter is a ‘virtual prisoner’ and he is worried for her safety and wants her to return to London. But he says nothing about his younger son, also a surgeon, who was working at a clinic in Syria at the time of the now-infamous Vogue feature.
According to yesterday’s story, Asma’s father is “horrified” by his son-in-law’s violent crackdown, and he and his wife have been the target of vandalism by rebel supporters in their largely Syrian neighborhood in Acton, so they moved out.
Are we to believe that Asma Assad is a victim of the regime, too? That’s as mind-bending as Bashar’s two hour-long interviews with Charlie Rose, where Assad, on both occasions, years apart, inexplicably giggled, grinned, and nervously waved his arms around, tipping the Hinky Meter. But at least Asma’s father makes sense, after all, their family is Sunni — and from Homs.

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March 5th, 2012, 2:18 am



[…] Damascus, a detail of the Assad children’s lives that Vogue magazine reported in a February 2011 profile of their mother, Asma al-Assad. That article portrayed them as typical suburban children who […]

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August 30th, 2013, 12:05 pm


117. The Lede: Facebook Post Said to Be by Assad’s Son Dares Americans to Attack | Treilo News said:

[…] Damascus, a detail of the Assad children’s lives that Vogue magazine reported in a February 2011 profile of their mother, Asma al-Assad. That article portrayed them as typical suburban children who played […]

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August 30th, 2013, 1:17 pm


118. WAR DRUMS: Facebook Post Said to Be by Assad’s 11 Year Old Son, Dares Americans to Attack | END TIME HEADLINES said:

[…] Damascus, a detail of the Assad children’s lives that Vogue magazine reported in a February 2011 profile of their mother, Asma al-Assad. That article portrayed them as typical suburban children who […]

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August 30th, 2013, 1:38 pm


119. Syrian President’s Son Posts Anti-U.S. Facebook Rant? | Political Ration said:

[…] The profile references a Montessori school in Damascus. According to a controversial 2011 Vogue profile on the family, all three Assad children — Zein, Karim and Hafez — attend a Montessori school. […]

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August 30th, 2013, 1:48 pm


120. Did Syrian President’s Son Hafez Assad Post Anti-U.S. Facebook Rant? ,Vancouver Island, Canada said:

[…] The profile references a Montessori school in Damascus. According to a controversial 2011 Vogue profile on the family, all three Assad children — Zein, Karim and Hafez — attend a Montessori school. […]

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August 30th, 2013, 2:17 pm


121. Facebook post supposedly written by Assad’s son invites Americans to attack Syria » ConservativeWatchNews.org said:

[…] The New York Times have noted several details in the Facebook profile that suggest it may be genuine. Firstly, the owner of the account says he went to the Montesorri school in Damascus, a detail of the Assad’s family life that was reported in a Vogue profile of Bashar al-Assad’s wife in February 2011. […]

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August 30th, 2013, 3:48 pm


122. El hijo de 11 años de Assad habría amenazado a EE.UU. por Facebook | AdriBosch's Magazine said:

[…] Damasco, un detalle de la vida de los niños Assad que la revista Vogue informó en febrero 2011 el perfil de su madre, Asma al-Assad. Este artículo les presenta como niños suburbanos típicos que […]

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August 31st, 2013, 3:16 pm


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