When the going gets tough, the tough disappear. Or why Vogue dropped Asma Al Assad from its Website


She was described as a rose in the desert in the March American edition of Vogue this year but it seems she turned into a rose on its side—or site, as is the case when the magazine dropped the glowing profile of Syria’s First Lady, Asma Al Assad.

The fashion bible was derided and ridiculed by several critics, in and outside the media circle, for its over-the-top tribute to the Assad family in its March edition. Mrs. Al Assad was described as the “freshest and most magnetic of first ladies” whose mission was to “change the mindset of six million Syrians under 18, encourage them to engage in active citizenship.”

The writer’s complete disinterest in asking Mr. or Mrs. Assad on anything remotely “negative” was as laughable as the magazine doing a fluff piece on one of the world’s most closed society’s dictator’s wife.

Vogue’s legendary editor Anna Wintour is said to run the magazine like a dictator which might explain why she chose a dictator’s wife to profile—but they did it, they ran it, and they defended it.

So for them to then remove the article from the Website it is just plain silly.

Because nothing has changed--since the article was published till it was removed—as far as Mr. Assad’s tactics are concerned. His crackdown has certainly intensified, more pro-democracy people have disappeared, detained and so forth—but none of it comes as a surprise, except perhaps to Anna Wintour and Co.

It seems Vogue just wants to fawn over glamor and chic as embodied by Mrs. Al Assad and Queen Rania of Jordan, a much beloved superstar in the West, whose husband, it must be said, doesn’t have an inch of the same crime sheet Mr. Assad possesses.

However, despite the good work Queen Rania does, Jordan does not espouse any of the democratic values that even Vogue holds dear – it wants fashion for all.

The only democratic principles the Assads have can be found in the household, which Mrs. Assad says in Vogue, “is run on wildly democratic principles… We all vote on what we want and where.”

Sadly the same cannot be said for the Syrians she so valiantly champions in the few statements she makes about them.
How the mighty have fallen—both the Assads whose time will eventually come to a close and Vogue, which doesn’t have the chutzpah to stand by its editorial decisions, foolish as they are.

(Muna Khan, Editor of Al Arabiya English, can be reached at muna.khan@mbc.net)