Arab Spring

The Real Housewives of Arab Thugocracies


Interesting story in the Guardian (UK) about the first ladies of the countries involved in the Arab Spring. Contra Hillary Clinton, these dames are most certainly Tammy Wynette "Stand by Your Man" types, as they participate fully in the ill-gotten gains of their despotic lesser halves.

Among the worst offenders, writes Angelique Chrisafis are

Leila Trabelsi, the politically ambitious wife of Tunisia's Zine El-Abidine Ben Ali, was easily the most detested, a monstrous symbol of nepotism and corruption, whose embezzlement of state wealth made Imelda Marcos's nearly 3,000 pair of shoes seem trifling….She and her relatives are accused of ordering people from their homes if they wanted their land, confiscating their businesses if they thought they could profit from them. Trabelsi took archaeological artefacts to decorate her palace rooms while her daughter and son in law flew in ice-cream from St-Tropez for dinner parties….

Suzanne, the half-Welsh wife of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak, benefited from a fortune of billions in a country where around 40% of the population lives on less than £1.20 per day. She is now being investigated alongside her husband on allegations of crimes against the state and has relinquished disputed assets worth nearly £2.5m. Before the Egyptian revolution, whole newspaper pages were "allocated" to cover Suzanne's "charitable engagements" and "actions" for women….Suzanne Mubarak would jet off to meet Arab leaders' wives to talk about women's issues while independent women in Egypt were being heavily repressed….

But the real dark star of the region is Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who is currently killing hundreds if not thousands of citizens in an almost-certain-to-fail attempt to keep his day job. Because she was born and raised in London and is attractive, the compliments in the Western press gushed like blood from the head of a protester in Damascus. French Elle anointed her "the most stylish woman in world politics," Paris Match dubbed her "an eastern Diana," and the Huffington Post was so enthralled by her "All-Natural Beauty" that they ran a slideshow about her. "In a region where the women love to cake on their make-up," said HuffPo's Nour Akkad, "it is very refreshing to see the wife of President Bashar al-Assad with very little on." 

Last year, American Vogue ran a sickening article about her that's since been pulled off the mag's website (read it here). Titled "A Rose in the Desert," it is the worse form of celebritoid journalism:

Asma al-Assad 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. Paris Match calls her "the element of light in a country full of shadow zones." She is the first lady of Syria.

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…

The story does acknowledge that there's something deeply disturbing about a place where the son of the last ruler can win election with 97 percent of votes cast, but it never wants to forget that working-mom Asma's life is not so very different from those of Vogue readers in the good old United States:

Asma al-Assad empties a box of fondue mix into a saucepan for lunch. The household is run on wildly democratic principles. "We all vote on what we want, and where," she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. "They outvoted us three to two on that."

A grid is drawn on a blackboard, with ticks for each member of the family. "We were having trouble with politeness, so we made a chart: ticks for when they spoke as they should, and a cross if they didn't." There's a cross next to Asma's name. "I shouted," she confesses. "I can't talk about empowering young people, encouraging them to be creative and take responsibility, if I'm not like that with my own children."

As Chrisafis points out in her Guardian story, Asma has been relatively silent since the Vogue story, though her office recently sent a press release to a British paper that reads in part:

"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."

Chrisafis notes that "just before [the release appeared], she had appeared grinning from ear to ear with two of her children to support her husband as he spoke at a pro-regime rally."

You go, girl. And please take your husband with you.

Read "The Arab World's First Ladies of Oppression."

NEXT: Delta Smelt v. Central Valley Farmers: The Battle Continues

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  1. Asma will look far better hung upside down from a lamppost.

    1. Syrias’ Alawites & Christians will soon follow her.
      Hooray for al quaeda!

    2. A worse first lady was Queen Maggie of Chicago. The Daley Clan pillaged Chicago while Maggie played the mob-wife role. May she burn in hell.

    3. Not necessarily.

      Keep in mind that sometimes leaders are figureheads, as with Hirohito in wartime Japan: officially worshiped, but without actual power.

      This is probably true of Mr and Mrs Assad.

      1. lol!

        We should have dropped the Nagasaki bomb on the Emperors palace. Barring that, Hirohito should’ve been dragged to death behind a Jeep.

  2. The Real Housewives of Arab Thugocracies

    Uh, Nick, you probably shouldn’t give Bravo any new ideas.

    1. This is a version of that show I would watch.

      I watched some of the Real Housewives of New Jersey or whatever with an ex of mine once because it was her guilty pleasure. Holy shit that show made me wince for humanity. The entire cast was completely despicable. The whole lot of them should never be let near a camera ever again.

      For the children.

      1. A very huge percentage of reality shows are totally faked. If that makes you feel any better. Most are, to some extent, scripted (or outlined). There are some battles over that fact between the networks and the WGA.

        1. There are those who believe reality shows are real. Now, I’m not saying that these people are gullible retards, but should we allow them near a voting booth?

        2. You take that back! Ice’s love for Coco is true and wild and free! It could never fit in the pages of a script.

  3. Women who are subservient in these countries have a long history of shopping, and ignoring blood stains on the palace floor and most end up in a ditch

  4. The irony of course is that families run best as communist dictatorships, and countries as liberal democracies. Asma al-Assad and her husband have it completely backwards.

    1. I was thinking the exact same thing! The irony of using democracy in one of the cases where it doesn’t work well cracked me up right away. The “democracy” thing is probably just a side effect of her being the kind of “modern” parent that has discovered that saying “yes” just seems way easier than saying “no”.

      1. God can you imagine the kind of nutjob a ruthless dictator who is also a permissive parent would create. Oh yeah, the Hussein brothers and the Kim brothers.

  5. That’s one looooong neck.

    1. I have the feeling its going to get longer, unless she hops the last flight out.

      1. If she makes it out alive I hope the only country offering sanctuary is some sub-Saharan shit hole.

        1. If she makes it out alive I hope the only country offering sanctuary is some sub-Saharan shit hole.


          1. Your globe’s upside-down, you wanker.

    2. The neck has to be long so she can swallow Bashir’s long better quit now.

      I haven’t watched Olbermann in a long while, and wonder what his take on the whole thing is. I became convinced he was an ignorant hack some years ago when he practically jizzed himself talking about how noble it was of the Syrians to protect the US embassy in Damascus from some anti-American mobs: why, one of the guards was killed! He seemingly had no clue that host governments are required by international law to protect foreign embassies and their personnel.

  6. Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad, who is currently killing hundreds if not thousands of citizens

    Michelle Obama is way worse!

    1. She made the candy bars run on time.

  7. Suzanne, the half-Welsh wife

    What the

  8. “We all vote on what we want, and where,” she says. The chandelier over the dining table is made of cut-up comic books. “They outvoted us three to two on that.”

    I propose a cage match between this broad and Gwyneth Paltrow. Let’s stop arguing who is the biggest blowhard in the world and solve this problem with SCIENCE.

    1. Why settle for a cage match? Asma al-Assad and Suzanne Mubarak vs. Gwyneth Paltrow and Gloria Allred.


  9. Is anyone actually *surprised* by this? Third world country leaders and their families put on a show for Western NGOs and governments; get money from the naive to sustain themselves and their evil, soul-sucking regimes.

    It’s a testament to media blindness/willful ignorance that we still see these puff pieces 50 years after the third world became a category.

  10. Look, I wanted to stay in London. I told him, “You’re an ophthalmologist, you make a good living even with NHS.” But, no-o-o-o, he had his “family business” he had to go back to. So, yes, my husband has become a brutal dictator. I don’t like it, but what am I supposed to do? You saw Godfather II. I’m not doing that to my kids. If the US keeps being distracted by Iran, maybe we can kill enough people for things to go back to the way they were before. It worked for Daddy Assad, after all.

  11. I’m missing the point here. Not enough Islam? Too much secularism? You want veils in the universities? Well, that should be a matter of choice, but choice ain’t what you get in Syria.

  12. Contra Hillary Clinton, these dames are most certainly Tammy Wynette “Stand by Your Man” types

    that word contra…

    1. that word contra…

      Well, its not likely Tammy Wynette would have let her husband get blow jobs from the help.

  13. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement.

    Oh, the micro-aggresion, the otherness!

  14. …killing hundreds if not thousands of citizens in an almost-certain-to-fail attempt to keep his day job.


  15. Mrs. Syrian Strongman sure is hot. If Mr. Assad leaves the scene, has she considered setting up on her own as a villain, like these ladies:…..r-villains

  16. This is a bit misdirected. Mr Assad is almost certainly a figurehead with little actual influence – this is widely believed to be the case by those familiar with the regime.

    I certainly hope that the Syrian revolution fails, but killing Assad and bringing his ministers into the new government would be exactly the reverse of what should probably be done. (Consult people familiar with the local situation for more details.)

    1. Damn it, I meant to say “I certainly hope that the Syrian revolution SUCCEEDS.” Way to screw that up!

  17. But Reason Foundation Senior Analyst Shikha Dakmia examines the run up to the presidential elections in Egypt in her morning column at The Daily and suggests that neocon worries might be overblown. The Egyptians, she notes:

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