x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 22 January 2018

A plea to Asma

Syria's fate may rest with the country's first lady, Asma Al Assad, at least if wives of two western diplomats have anything to say about it.

Being a first lady, it turns out, is not all luxury shopping, state banquets and official photos with your VIP husband. Sometimes you have to face up to what he has done.

That's the problem for Asma Al Assad, wife of Syria's president, Bashar Al Assad, and mother of his three children. The stylish British-born 36-year-old, whose parents come from the city of Homs, has positioned herself firmly with Mr Al Assad as he directs the bloody suppression of the revolt.

Now the wives of two other public men have issued an unabashedly emotional video intended to shame Mrs Al Assad. Huberta von Voss-Wittig, whose husband is Germany's envoy to the UN, and Sheila Lyall Grant, wife of the UK ambassador, created the four-minute video as individuals, not officially. Over photos and video of the glamorous Mrs Al Assad, intercut with images of injured Syrian toddlers and displaced families, a disembodied British woman addresses her directly: "Stand up for peace, Asma … Stop your husband and his supporters."

It's a stark message, imposing on Mrs Al Assad an unavoidable moment of moral clarity. The Assads are known to be media-savvy; the first lady will by now surely be aware of this message. No response yet.