Dead Man Walking?
The Guardian has a series of reports today on emails hacked from the private inbox of the Assads. While Assad has ordered the murder of thousands of his own people, he and his British wife Asma live a gilded life.
On 5 February 2012, the day after Assad's artillery had pounded Homs, killing several hundred civilians and blowing up a makeshift hospital,Assad, using the pseudonym Sam, sent his wife the lyrics of a country and western song by the US singer Blake Shelton, and the audio file downloaded from iTunes.
: "I've been a walking heartache / I've made a mess of me / The person that I've been lately / Ain't who I wanna be."
The emails appear to show how tens of thousands of dollars were spent in internet shopping sprees on handmade furniture from Chelsea boutiques. Tens of thousands more were lavished on gold and gem-encrusted jewellery, chandeliers, expensive curtains and paintings to be shipped to the Middle East. While the country was rocked by Assad's crackdown on dissent, his inner circle was concerned about the possibility of getting hold of a copy of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II, or a new chocolate fondue set.
On 19 July 2011, Asma al-Assad could be found placing orders with her cousin Amal for jewellery made by a small Paris workshop. She requested four necklaces: "1 turquoise with yellow gold diamonds and a small pave on side" as well as a cornaline, "full black onyx" and "amethyst with white gold diamonds" of similar design. Amal replied that she would "launch" the order in mid-August with a view to getting it done "by mid-September". On 23 July 2011 Asma said she didn't mind the delay and added self-deprecatingly: "I am absolutely clueless when it comes to fine jewellery!" She signed off as "aaa" with: "Kisses to you both, and don't worry, we are well!"
Dead Woman Walking?
Others items that caught the fancy of Syria's first lady included a vase priced £2,650. On 17 June 2011 she sent details to the family's London-based fixer Soulieman Marouf, and added: "Pls can abdulla see if this available at Harrods to order – they have a sale at the moment." Marouf replied with good news: "He bought it. Got 15% discount. Delivery 10 weeks." He added: "Today you should be receiving an Armani light … If you need anything else please let me know."
The emails suggest a woman preoccupied with shopping – but also with an eye for a bargain. She was eager to claw back VAT on luxury items shipped to Damascus, it emerges, and complained when a consignment of table lamps went missing in China. Emails sent from her personal account also concern the fate of a bespoke table, after it arrived with two "right" panels instead of a right and a left one. More than 50 emails to and from the UK deal with shopping.
Some of Asma al-Assad's prospective purchases arouse polite comment from her friends. On 3 February 2012, she was browsing the internet for luxury shoes, according to an email titled "Christian Louboutin shoes coming shortly".
She wrote to friends sharing details of new shoes on offer, including a pair of crystal-encrusted 16cm high heels costing £3,795. She asked: "Does anything catch your eye – these pieces are not made for general public." One friend replied dryly: "I don't think they're going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately."
Most jarring were the occasions when the world was hearing news of the worst incidents of violence and bloodshed and the Assad family could be found shopping or joking online, often using pseudonyms. An adviser to the Assad inner circle, Lamis Omar, appeared to acknowledge that the first couple risked seeming too detached and sent Assad a link to an article in the US magazine Businessweek that described the president's "life in a cocoon".
Emails from the Syrian first lady's account are typically signed off with "AAA" – corresponding to Asma al-Assad – or "Alia Kayali", which is the name of the company secretary whose identity activists believe Asma hid behind. In email correspondence with shops in Paris and London, the signoff "Alia" predominates.
In July, "Alia" is found placing an order for about £10,000 worth of candlesticks, tables and chandeliers to be shipped from a Paris designer through a state company in Dubai. In early November, as protests continued, a London art dealer received a message asking about the availability and price of works costing between £5,000 and £35,000 each. In late January "Alia" unpacked a pair of bedside tables shipped from a Chelsea cabinet maker, only to discover a mistake. She complained they had "different finishes and they have different colour draws!?".
In Britain, suppliers said they were unaware that the woman behind the email account was in fact Syria's first lady. Tony Carpenter, who runs a bespoke furniture firm in Billingshurst, West Sussex, sold "Alia" a designer Baxter Gilbert table in November. The table cost £6,257. "I had no idea," Carpenter said. "She gave me a London address. The furniture went to Dubai. I assumed the job was in Dubai."
Carpenter added: "She was a very charming lady to deal with. I spoke to her once or twice, though it was mostly by email. She paid the bill very promptly." The table was oval-shaped and marble-topped, he added.
Sometimes he searched the internet for video clips that impressed him, on one occasion sending her a clip from America's Got Talent of "the best illusion of all time" – a man appearing to saw another man in half and then putting him back together again, to the delight of the judges David Hasselhoff, Sharon Osbourne and Piers Morgan.
Assad's emails reveal his inner fears and suspicions. On 16 October, as the UN high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, called for international action to avoid "full-blown civil war" in Syria, Assad circulated from his iPad an article to a list of undisclosed recipients an article alleging that the US ambassador to Syria, Robert Ford, was responsible for "recruiting Arab 'death squads' from al-Qaida-affiliated units in Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, and Chechnya to fight against Syrian military and police".
He sent another rabid article to his wife on 23 July that described Rupert Murdoch as a Jew and an Israeli citizen and "pretty much" Satan.
Ans so on and so forth.... Clearly they are either in denial about the situation in their nation or they simply don't give a shit, If they have put their heads into a noose then I will shed few tears even if I oppose the death penalty, THe only shame is that, as a British citizen, Asma has the absolute right of return to the UK.