And who said dictators were going out of fashion?


What a beautiful and happy Western-looking family

Joan Juliet Buck, from leading fashion magazine Vogue, wrote a longform profile on a high-profile Middle-Eastern lady, who, in Buck’s words, 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.'”

Buck chronicles this woman’s high-level Western education, how she grew-up in London, went to Queen’s college, has an MBA from Harvard and worked at Goldman Sachs, but is down to earth, with an accent that is “English, but not plummy”. Buck details visits to the Louvre, impressing Brad and Angelina and even the charitable NGO that she runs to educate refugee children. She even fights extremism “through art”.

And who is this beautiful, caring, glamorous Arab leader, who sounds just like the Western celebrities that Vogue usually profile? None other than Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad. And Syria sounds great too:

Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert – Vogue Daily – Vogue.

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. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad

Huh. Let’s take another look at that passage for a second, shall we?

As the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.”

To keep them safe, right? Sounds like something any kind, friendly leader would do. Like her husband, who won 97% of the vote – the people must love him! Just one thing that Ms Buck forgot to mention, he was the only candidate in the election. And why was he the only candidate in the election? Well, you see, these security forces that keep Syria “safe”, also keep his regime “safe”, but brutally crushing any dissent.

Reading on:

The country’s alliances are murky.How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah?There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.

Might not always be the case, hey? Because the US broke-off and then re-established diplomatic relations, that means that Israel may no longer be its number-one enmity? Hold on a second:

Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.

Seems as if Syria doesn’t recognise that there is an Israel, funny that. And as the article already glossed over, Ms Assad and her husband harbour, support and train terrorist groups that attack Israel, not to mention being Iran’s strongest ally. Syria also militarily occupied Lebanon for years and is still meddling in Lebanese affairs. Neat, huh?

What else can we divine from Buck’s profile? Well, Syria is a great example of a tolerant, multicultural society:

Back in the car, I ask what religion the orphans are. “It’s not relevant,” says Asma al-Assad. “Let me try to explain it to you. That church is a part of my heritage because it’s a Syrian church. The Umayyad Mosque is the third-most-important holy Muslim site, but within the mosque is the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. We all kneel in the mosque in front of the tomb of Saint John the Baptist. That’s how religions live together in Syria—a way that I have never seen anywhere else in the world. We live side by side, and have historically. All the religions and cultures that have passed through these lands—the Armenians, Islam, Christianity, the Umayyads, the Ottomans—make up who I am.”
“Does that include the Jews?” I ask.
“And the Jews,” she answers. “There is a very big Jewish quarter in old Damascus.”

The Jewish quarter of Damascus spans a few abandoned blocks in the old city that emptied out in 1992, when most of the Syrian Jews left. Their houses are sealed up and have not been touched, because, as people like to tell you, Syrians don’t touch the property of others. The broken glass and sagging upper floors tell a story you don’t understand—are the owners coming back to claim them one day?

So the abandoned Jewish quarter tells “a story you don’t understand” then? I guess no one knows why there were 30,000 Jews in Syria in 1947 and only 200 today. Well at least Joan Juliet Buck, former editor of French Vogue, doesn’t understand, but then she doesn’t seem to understand much, otherwise this article would read a little differently.

It is, in fact, not a mystery what happened in 1992. This was when finally, after years of campaigning, 4,500 Syrian Jews were allowed to leave Syria. One person who does understand is Alice Sardell, president of the now defunct Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews.

Point of no return: How Syria’s Jews obtained their freedom.

Freedom for the Jews of Syria beginning in 1992 came about after a long and intense American and international human rights campaign led by The Council for the Rescue of Syrian Jews, with the United States government at the forefront.

But they weren’t just fleeing for nothing:

Since 1948 with the establishment of the State of Israel, Syria’s Jewish community had been held as hostages living under Syria’s Secret Police and subject to arbitrary arrests and systematic torture.

Where were these little details in Buck’s profile?

Buck could have written about the brutal secret police, the sponsorship of terror, the alliance with Iran, the nuclear program and the decades of the despotic reign of terror that Assad and his fellow Allawite leaders have subjected the Syrian people to. She even could have mentioned that Assad and her husband prevented protests like the ones spreading through other Arab countries by shutting off the internet and suppressing protesters with beatings and arrests. Instead, she gave the guy a goddamn podium to speak from:

Neither of them believes in charity for the sake of charity. “We have the Iraqi refugees,” says the president. “Everybody is talking about it as a political problem or as welfare, charity. I say it’s neither—it’s about cultural philosophy. We have to help them. That’s why the first thing I did is to allow the Iraqis to go into schools. If they don’t have an education, they will go back as a bomb, in every way: terrorism, extremism, drug dealers, crime. If I have a secular and balanced neighbor, I will be safe.”

So now he’s against terrorism is he?

This article was disgusting to be honest. To read more, including Buck’s extremely underwhelming response, see the links below:

Vogue Defends Profile of Syrian First Lady – Max Fisher – International – The Atlantic.

Vogue’s ridiculous puff piece on Syria’s ruling family | FP Passport.


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  1. Everything’s not right in the fashion industry: WSJ takes on Vogue « Major Karnage
  2. Syria’s style icon First Lady is killing it « Major Karnage
  3. Chilling insight into fashion magazine’s Assad choice « Major Karnage

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