- Asma al-Assad, 36, joked about the people of Homs as troops slaughtered thousands in rebel-held city
- Tells her husband: ‘If we are strong together, we will overcome this together …. I love you’
- Fighting reported in upmarket district of Damascus following bomb attacks
PUBLISHED: 08:09 EST, 19 March 2012 | UPDATED: 09:43 EST, 19 March 2012
Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of the Syrian president, told a friend in a leaked email that she was the ‘real dictator’ in the family.
Mrs Assad, 36, appears to show no misgivings about the regime’s brutal crackdown against dissenters, according to the latest extracts from her private emails.
She praises a speech by her husband for conveying a sense of being ‘very strong, no more messing around.’
And she even makes light of the president’s reputation, joking in one exchange with a friend about domestic relations: ‘As for listening – I am the REAL dictator, he has no choice.’
Mrs al-Assad is often portrayed as an unwitting partner to her husband as he conducts a campaign of violence against many of his own people.
But the string of emails sent to her husband as well as friends and family members, shows she is, in fact, fully behind his policies.
In one message to a family friend she refers to a speech her husband had made describing it as ‘very strong, no more messing around’.
And she even changed the wording of a viral joke email, to make fun of the people of Homs – the city at the centre of the uprising where the United Nations estimates thousands have been killed.
She had received the email – with the subject line ‘Student who obtained 0% in exam’ – from her husband.
But before she forwarded it on to her father and two other family members she changed the wording to read: ‘A really bright Homsi student’.
In another email her father, Harley Street cardiologist Dr Fawak Akhras, compared the Syrian government’s assault on Homs to Britain’s reaction to the riots last summer.
Mrs Assad, who has three children, grew up in leafy Acton. Although Muslim, she went to a Church of England school, where friends called her Emma.
After studying computer science and French literature at King’s College, London, she worked as a banker at JP Morgan in the Nineties when she started secretly dating Bashar, the nerdy former eye doctor being groomed to succeed his despotic father in Syria.
Bashar took power in 2000 amidst hopes he would relax the regime and dismantle the network of security forces. But despite many promises, there have been few real changes.
The collection of around around 3,000 emails from the private accounts of the couple were obtained by opposition activists who have released them to the media.
In one sent to her husband on December 28th she shows she is fully aware just how serious the threat to his regime had got.
‘If we are strong together, we will overcome this together …. I love you.’
Although they do not use each others’ real names, experts say they are certain the emails are genuine and that the true identities are beyond reasonable doubt.
Other emails revealed how, as the fighting in Syria raged, Mrs al-Assad was mainly concerned with how to get around international sanctions that prevented her from shopping online.
‘I am absolutely clueless when it comes to fine jewellery,’ she wrote to her cousin while awaiting a delivery of gold, onyx and diamond-encrusted necklaces being made for her in Paris.
In another email she oragnises a delivery of new furniture through a Dubai shipping company.
Meanwhile in Syria government forces clashed with gunmen in an upscale neighborhood of the capital Damascus – home to embassies and senior officials – in one of the worst confrontations in the tightly-controlled city center in the country’s yearlong uprising.
The pro-government reports said the clash left three ‘terrorists’ and a member of the security forces dead.
It said one of the attackers was captured and three security troops were wounded.
Shocking violence: Syrians were left reeling after the dramatic blasts at security buildings in the heart of the troubled country’s capital Damascus.
Damascus has been largely free of the daily shootings and deaths reported across the country since the uprising against Assad began in March last year.
But the capital has witnessed several major bomb attacks targeting security facilities, most recently on Saturday. The government blames ‘terrorists’ for the bombings but the opposition says that the regime itself may be carrying them out to discredit the uprising.
The new fighting shows that rebels can still strike in the heart of the capital despite successful government offensive in the past weeks in the suburbs of Damascus, in the central city of Homs and the northern region of Idlib.
Syrian authorities claim the opposition is made up of ‘terrorist’ groups carrying out a foreign conspiracy.
An activist in the capital said the Monday morning clashes occurred near the Political Security Directorate building. He said the clashes were followed with raids by security forces who were searching for the attackers.
The Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which has a network of activists throughout Syria, said 18 of Assad’s troops were wounded in the clashes. It described the clashes “as the most violent of its kind and closest to security centers in Damascus since the revolution began.”
The rebel Free Syrian Army, which includes thousands of army defectors, have claimed responsibility in the past for attacks against regime forces.
The group’s leader, Col. Riad al-Asaad, refused to comment on the fighting in Damascus when contacted by The Associated Press by telephone. “This is a sensitive military matter that we cannot comment about,” he said from Turkey.
On Saturday, three suicide bombings in Damascus killed 27 people. Two of them also targeted government security buildings.
On Sunday, an explosion killed two and wounded 30 in the northern city of Aleppo, Syria’s largest.
HOW MOSCOW HAS SUPPLIED THE FIREPOWER OF ASSAD’S REGIME
Arms deliveries to Syria surged almost 600 percent from 2007 to 2011 compared with the previous five years, a leading think tank said on Monday, with Russia supplying the bulk of the country’s weapons.
The report underlined how Moscow has continued to supply Syria with firepower while the United States, European Union and others have imposed arms embargoes in response to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s bloody crackdown on unrest.
World powers have been unable to stop more than a year of bloodshed in Syria, a country that sits on the fault lines of several regional and ethnic conflicts. Recent army gains against rebel positions have not succeeded in quelling the violence and no negotiated settlement is in sight.
The Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI)said Russia had supplied 78 per cent of Syria’s weapons imports during the past five years, contributing to a 580 per cent increase in the volume of arms imports by Syria.
‘The transfer of arms to states affected by the Arab Spring has provoked public and parliamentary debate in a number of supplier states,” said Mark Bromley, senior researcher with the SIPRI Arms Transfers Programme.
‘However, the impact of these debates on states’ arms export policies has, up to now, been limited.’
Global arms transfers in the period rose by almost a quarter. The five largest importers were all Asian states, with Asia and Oceania accounting for 44 percent of purchases, followed by Europe at 19 percent, the Middle East at 17 percent, the Americas 11 percent and Africa 9 percent.
India was the world’s single largest importer of arms, accounting for 10 percent of the total, followed by South Korea, Pakistan, China and Singapore. China, the largest recipient of arms during the previous 2002-2006 period, fell in the rankings due to increased domestic production.
SIPRI uses a system which attempts to measure volume rather than the financial value of weapons transfers. It does this by using a methodology which intends instead to represent the transfer of military resources.