Asma al-Assad, the First Lady of Syria and wife of president Bashar al-Assad, was initially a beacon of hope. Today, she is regarded as the dictator’s accomplice.
She grew up in London, went to elite schools and had a promising career. The former ambassador of the European Union to Syria, Frank Hesske, still gets a sparkle in his eyes when he talks about Asma al-Assad. She was ‘a darling’, and comparable to Princess Diana – and not just because of her British roots: ‘We diplomats,’ the former ambassador now reveals with surprising honesty, ‘let ourselves be seduced’. Many of the diplomats, politicians and journalists from the West who met the presidential couple during the 11 years after Assad took power and before the civil war broke out shared that fate: they let themselves be duped. Torture, arrests and threats were unleashed on all those who got in the way of the regime – just as under Assad’s father. There’s the famous opposition activist Riad Seif, whose daughter talks about the regime’s humiliations and the constant fear that her family could be taken by the secret police and her father killed. While the country remains as dark as ever, this film looks at Asma al-Assad’s international role as the face of the dictatorship, the woman from London who for a long time managed to make the Assads socially acceptable.
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