A GODFATHER’s WIFE: Does the Syrian autocrat’s wife have to stand by her man?

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A GODFATHER’s WIFE: Does the Syrian autocrat’s wife have to stand by her man?
by Darius Kadivar
08-Feb-2012
 

Asma al-Assad has been condemned for supporting her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the bombardment of her family's home city, Homs, goes on. But do autocrats' wives ever rein in their husbands? (See Related News)

British-born Asma Assad is also believed to have said she was encouraging dialogue over the crisis gripping Syria, and that she was comforting the bereaved. Unlike her husband, who is a minority Alawite, she is also a Sunni whose family originally comes from Homs, the epicentre of the revolt against her husband, and the city bearing the brunt of the violence by his forces.

In an an email from her office to the Times newspaper in London, Mrs Assad, 36, wrote that her husband "is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First Lady supports him in that role".

The email is said to have continued: "The First Lady's very busy agenda is still focused on supporting the various charities she has long been involved with and rural development as well as supporting the President as needed.

"These days she is equally involved in bridging gaps and encouraging dialogue. She listens to and comforts the families of the victims of the violence."

Before the crisis in Syria, Mrs Assad was one of the most visible of the female leaders in the Middle East. Raised in Acton in London before moving to New York, she is the daughter of a Harley Street cardiologist.

Asma's email to The Times newspaper in full :

"The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First Lady supports him in that role.

"The First Lady's very busy agenda is still focused on supporting the various charities she has long been involved with and rural development as well as supporting the President as needed.

"These days she is equally involved in bridging gaps and encouraging dialogue. She listens to and comforts the families of the victims of the violence."

Asma Elassad Syria's first lady on Gaza by CNN (Jan 14, 2009):

 

Syrian State TV shows First lady visiting orphanage 02-02-2012 :

 

Watch Former Friends of Syria’s first lady in London Speak on Asma al-Assad:

BBC News - Syria's first lady stands by President Bashar al-Assad

 

The wife of Syria's president Bashar al-Assad has spoken out to defend her husband. Mrs Asma Assad took the unusual step of writing to the Times newspaper to explain why she thought her husband was still the right person to lead Syria, causing a furious backlash among Syrians living in the UK. The BBC's Caroline Hawley has been talking to those who knew Mrs Assad when she lived in Britain.

A very British Upbringing:

Born in the UK, Asma Akhras was the daughter of a Harley Street cardiologist

 

Grew up in Acton, west London

 

Attended an independent school where friends called her Emma

 

Worked as an analyst in the City of London for Deutsche Bank and JP Morgan

 

Believed to have met her husband, a qualified eye surgeon, while he studied in London

 

A Sunni Muslim, her family is from rebel stronghold Homs, now under  attack

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A GODFATHER’s WIFE

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Scenes from Francis Ford Coppola’s Godfather Trilogy starring Al Pacino as Michael Corleone and Diane Keaton as his estranged wife Kay:

 

The New Godfather: Al Pacino & Diane Keaton - The Godfather Part II

Michael (Al Pacino) lies to Kay (Diane Keaton) about what he did to Fredo and she fearfully watches as men pay respect to the new Don Corleone.




 

Al Pacino & Diane Keaton - The Godfather Part II:

Kay (Diane Keaton) tells Michael (Al Pacino) she had an abortion




Al Pacino & Diane Keaton - The Godfather Part III:

Kay (Diane Keaton) asks Michael (Al Pacino) to let their son go to live his own life

Al Pacino & Diane Keaton - The Godfather Part III:

Kay (Diane Keaton) professes her undying love for Michael (Al Pacino).



The Fatal End: The Godfather Part III’s ending :


(WARNING: Spoiler)


**************************************************

**************************************************


MARRIED TO A PARIAH

Does an autocrat’s wife have to stand by her man?

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Antony: “I am dying, Egypt is dying”

 

William Shakespeare's "Antony and Cleopatra" (IV, xv, 41)


The deaths of Mark Antony and Cleopatra from HBO's "Rome":

Asma al-Assad and the tricky role of the autocrat's wife by Tom Geoghegan (bbc)

Asma al-Assad has been condemned for supporting her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as the bombardment of her family's home city, Homs, goes on. But do autocrats' wives ever rein in their husbands?

 

The first public intervention of British-born Asma al-Assad, 36, since the uprising began in Syria nearly a year ago was an email from her office to the Times newspaper in London.

In it she expressed her support for her husband, the president, while stating that she "comforts" the "victims of the violence".

It's estimated by human rights groups and activists that more than 7,000 people - 2,000 members of the security services, and 5,000 others - have been killed in the unrest, and Syrian opposition supporters promptly condemned Mrs Assad's "hypocrisy".

But her stance should come as no surprise, says Rime Allaf, an associate fellow of Chatham House, the London foreign affairs think tank.

"Why are we shaming her and saying she should do something? There was never any question that she would do anything else.

"Even if, deep down, she was not happy with what's happening, she wouldn't be able to do anything about it.

"And even if, between four walls, she told him 'I don't approve of this', we wouldn't know about it. Let's be more realistic about this."

But there have been examples where wives have stood up to their authoritarian husbands.

In the early 1990s, Susana Higuchi condemned her husband, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, as a "tyrant" and he responded by divorcing her and giving the status of First Lady to his daughter.

He dismissed the nation's parliament and judiciary, with the help of the army. Higuchi failed in her attempts to become a politician, but in 2009 her ex-husband was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights abuses.

Higuchi was an inspiration to women, says Dr Jelke Boesten, a fellow of the US Institute of Peace in Washington.

"It was very brave and temporarily it was very important but her husband was far stronger politically and he had the army behind him and popular support. Although she temporarily won the support of feminist organisations, that was a small part of society."

There are contrasting examples in Africa of female powers behind the throne, says Richard Dowden of the Royal African Society.

"Sally Mugabe was a really soothing, sensible influence on [her husband, Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe] and many people trace his going completely over the top to after she died. Up until then she was the one that restrained him. That is the perception, at least."

When he married his second wife, Grace, the perception is that it all changed, says Mr Dowden, as she embraced the extravagant lifestyle commonly associated with spouses of very wealthy, autocratic leaders.

But Grace is not thought to have had political influence, unlike Simone Gbagbo, wife of deposed Ivory Coast leader Laurent Gbagbo, who is awaiting trial at the International Criminal Court on four charges of crimes against humanity.

"Simone Gbagbo was a more militant version of him," says Mr Dowden. "As a politician he was a bit shifty but she was really hardline and used language that Gbagbo himself would not have used.

"She had a formal political role as well as being the president's wife. She was always in the newspapers and a really rabid anti-foreigner."

There are cases where the wife is a malign influence but mostly it's not the case, says Daniel Chirot, author of Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age. In fact, wives are often unfairly blamed for the actions of a leader, due to a kind of prejudice that holds them to higher standards.

Columnist Yasmin Alibhai-Brown agrees that women are sometimes judged unfairly, but anyone who stands by a dishonourable man with the power to make or break a nation fully deserves blame and punishment, she says.

She believes there are "true Lady Macbeths" like Madame Mao, partly responsible for the Cultural Revolution, or Mira Markovic, widow to Slobodan Milosevic and regarded as a key influence on him.

But the silent wives also deserve condemnation, in her view.

"We don't know if they're victims. I see the difficulties for them but if something like this [in Syria] is going on, for me it's unforgivable. It could be that Asma is under terrible pressure, that she's been told that if she doesn't do this she will be in trouble.

"But both Suzanne Mubarak [wife of former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak] and Asma are powerful women. They're not put upon or oppressed women."

Unlike the wife of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, who didn't have much of a presence, others like to present themselves as modern Arab women, says Ms Alibhai-Brown. Yet they allow themselves to be silenced when they should speak out or act.

"The biggest rulers in the Ottoman Empire were always very easily manipulated by their wives and mothers, so women could play a part, but since then we've gone backwards.

"It can't be possible that today they are all too oppressed."

 

Recommended Books:

In French : Femmes de Dictateur by Diane Ducret

 

In English : Modern Tyrants: The Power and Prevalence of Evil in Our Age by Daniel Chirot

 

Related Blogs:

 

Libya:

MACBETH: Life & Death of Libya's Usurper “King of Kings” in 3 Bloody Acts …

 

Egypt:

A QUEEN's LOYALTY: Barbara Walters Shares Shahbanou Farah's concerns for President Mobarak's Family


Tunisia:

Tunisia could benefit from bitter lessons of Iran’s clumsy '79 revolution

 

Related Blogs on Syria:

IN DENIAL: Barbara Walters' Interview with Syria's President Bashar al-Assad

WANTED: Did Nazi Criminal Alois Brunner train Syria’s Security Forces ?

Jordan's King Abdullah Calls On Syria's President Assad to Step Down


Jordan's King Warns: 'No one has any idea what to do about Syria'



Other Blogs on « First Ladies » and « Women and Power / Women in Politics »:

ENDURING LOVE: Looking Back at Shahbanou Farah's Interview with Charlie Rose (2004)

 

PREMIERE DAME: France's First Lady Carla Bruni Gives Birth to Baby Daughter

ROYALTY: Yasmine Pahlavi A Princess in Love

ROYAL FORUM: Zahra Rahnavard Monarchist Muslim? ;0)

DEATH - VERTISING ? Mehrangiz Kar Claims Husband was No More a Monarchist

A Women for All Seasons : Farokhroo Pārsā (1922-1980)

BELIEVING IN LOVE: Prince William to marry Kate Middleton

STUNNING CARLA: Did French First Lady Make Republican Guard Go Weak At The Knees?




IRON LADY: First look at Meryl Streep's new role as Maggie Thatcher

FIRST LADIES: Shahbanou Farah and the late Betty Ford (1918-2011)

SALMA HAYEK LOOKALIKE: Iranian Student Rumored to become Shah's 3rd wife

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