EU to ban Asmaa al-Assad from shopping trips after email leaks

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European Union states are set to impose a shopping and travel ban on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife this week, following the recent publication of several emails obtained by Al Arabiya from the couple’s inboxes.

Asmaa al-Assad became the focus of media attention last week when the emails revealed extravagant purchases under alias emails during the ongoing civil conflict in Syria that has resulted in thousands of deaths since March 2011.

The trove of 3,000 emails came from the private accounts of the ruling couple which were passed by opposition activists to Al Arabiya and other media outlets.

The EU had previously responded to Syria’s violence with a broad range of sanctions, which include a ban on Syrian oil imports to Europe and measures against the Syrian central bank and other companies and state institutions.

But these international sanctions had forced Mrs. Assad to shop online with an alias she used to ask friends to collect jewelry from Paris and receive a delivery of furniture from a friendly shipping company in Dubai. Meanwhile, several emails revealed that the furniture was delivered to a specific address in a Gulf Arab country, but not Syria.

On Friday, the European bloc is expected to take new steps. Foreign ministers are set to agree on a new round of measures, the bloc’s 13th, and impose asset freezes and bans on travel to the EU against 12 people, include Asmaa.

For Mrs. Assad, the bans will mean she will no longer be able to travel to the EU or buy products from EU-based companies, in her own name.

“The text (of sanctions) has gone through,” said one EU diplomat, referring to an agreement reached by envoys in Brussels to a list of new sanctions. Another diplomat confirmed Assad’s wife is included in the list of sanctioned individuals, according to Reuters.

President Assad’s inbox also revealed his fondness for purchasing electronics and mobile applications. He received numerous emails from Apple confirming his purchase of iPad and iPhone applications. One of those emails showed that Assad had bought a game adapted from the famous Harry Potter movies.

Asmaa, a British-born former investment banker who had once cultivated an image of a woman inspired by Western values, has become a hate figure for many Syrians.

She has stood by her husband during a year-long crackdown on the popular unrest in which the U.N. says at least 8,000 people have died.

However, despite the seemingly normal life of the First Couple, under the ongoing crisis, the leaked emails showed that the First Lady was slightly worried.

She kept buying bullet proof vests; she held contacts with a fashion-designing company for lining normal clothes with bullet proof material. She later chose some of these designs and emailed them to President Assad for his review.

(Additional writing by Eman El-shenawi)