A year ago, Vogue published a highly flattering article on Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad, now the magazine’s editor-in-chief, Anna Wintour, has publicly disowned Bashar al-Assad’s wife.
The 3,200-word profile, which was published in March 2011, carried the headline “A Rose in the Desert” and described the British-born Assad as “the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.”
It went on to describe her walking as “a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles,” in reference to her Christian Louboutin shoes, reported British newspaper the Telegraph.
The Vogue story came out as Assad’s regime had begun violently cracking down on an uprising in the country.
The United Nations estimates that more than 10,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the crisis erupted in March last year. Opposition groups give an estimate of more than 14,000.
According to the New York Times, Vogue’s article was part of a public relations offensive launched by the Assad regime, which included paying a U.S. public relations firm $5,000 a month for acting as a point of liaison between Vogue and the Assads.
The article was eventually removed from Vogue’s website and during the weekend, the magazine’s chief issued a statement condemning the Assad regime:
“In 2010, we set up an interview with the Syrian leader’s wife, Asma al-Assad, a Western-educated former banker and a woman with a reputation as a force for reform in the Middle East. Like many at that time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society. Subsequent to our interview, as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that its priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue. The escalating atrocities in Syria are unconscionable, and we deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.”
Wintour’s move came a week after Barbara Walters, the grande dame of American television news, admitted to trying to further the career of one of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s media advisors, after recently-released emails exposed a major conflict of interest.
Walters had been helping Sheherazad Jaafari, the daughter of Syria’s U.N. ambassador, secure a place at an Ivy League university and an internship at a CNN primetime program.
The 82-year-old ABC broadcaster expressed “regret” for her actions when confronted with the emails.
She said that she wrote to Piers Morgan, a CNN host, and a professor at Columbia’s journalism school on behalf of the Assad aide following an exclusive interview conducted with the embattled Syrian president earlier this year.
Miss Jaafari was reportedly admitted to Columbia University and used to be an intern at the public relations firm that coordinated with Vogue on behalf of Asma al-Assad.
(Written by Rana Khoury)