Text size:

  • Small
  • Normal
  • Large

Asma Al Assad: Syria's thorny rose

The author of a fawning Vogue profile of Syrian first lady Asma Al Assad last year is now desperately trying to retract her words.

Hindsight isn't always 20-20; especially when you're not prepared to admit to an error of judgement. Joan Juliet Buck - who wrote a fawning Vogue profile of Syrian first lady Asma Al Assad, headlined The desert rose, published in January 2011 - is now desperately trying to dig herself out of a hole. Newsweek magazine has given her the space to dig.

In an article that's less mea culpa, more a transparent attempt to shift the blame, the excuses come thick and fast: she never wanted to go in the first place, but the place was "hip" and famous people like Brad Pitt and Sting had been there, and "when else would I get to see the ruins of Palmyra?" (although she never did). Finally, after her return from being feted by the Assads and their PR people, as the Arab spring escalated, she tried to have the article pulled but was overruled.

Buck dances around the fact that she was duped, reluctant to own her naivety and lack of research, grasping at any opportunity to excuse her poor journalism. She does indeed dig herself deeper after the first error.

There is a lesson here, especially for the many "Middle East experts" who have parachuted into the region. Healthy scepticism never hurts. Most of all, be honest about mistakes - you may have been gulled, but that doesn't mean your readers will be.

Back to the top

More articles

Editor's Picks

 Above, the private pool of Ocean Heights' five-bedroom penthouse flat. Courtesy Christie’s International Real Estate

In pictures: Penthouse flat is height of Dubai luxury living

A five-bedroom penthouse in Ocean Heights in Dubai Marina is on sale for Dh25 million and comes with a private pool and an unparalleled view of Dubai.

Video: Local reactions to a national fishing ban

A federal fishing ban has been imposed by the UAE federal government, but local authorities are taking diiferent approaches to implementing the ban. Two fishermen tell two very different sides of the story. Produced by Paul O'Driscoll

 Rolling out the structure for the set. Mona Al Marzooqi / The National

Star Wars: Episode VII evidence in Abu Dhabi desert

After more than a week of speculation, The National has what are believed to be the first photos of a Star Wars shoot in the Abu Dhabi desert.

 The new Bentley GT Speed convertible on display at a press event of the New York International Auto Show. Jason Szenes / EPA

In pictures: Hot cars at New York International Auto Show

With more than 1 million visitors annually, the New York International Auto Show is one of the most important shows for the US car industry. Here are some of the vehicles to be shown in this year’s edition.

 Children walk past an Indian voter awareness mural in Mumbai ahead of the sixth phase of India’s national elections. Indranil Mukherjee / AFP

Inside India: Election, Promoting the Vote

A view of news and daily life on the Indian subcontinent for the week of April 10, 2014.

 The cast of Fast & Furious 7, including Michelle Rodriguez and Vin Diesel, centre, on set at Emirates Palace in Abu Dhabi. Jeffrey E Biteng / The National

Fast & Furious 7 filming in full swing at Emirates Palace

Filming for Fast & Furious 7 has started and we have the first photos of the cast and crew on set at Emirates Palace hotel this morning. Visitors staying at Emirates Palace say they have been kept away from certain areas in the grounds.


To add your event to The National listings, click here

Get the most from The National