The British-born wife of Bashar Assad is a graduate of King’s College, London, and a former investment banker. She married the Syrian dictator in 2000. Ironically, given the deadly religious splits now engulfing the country, their marriage was seen as a symbol of religious co-existence in the country, since she is a Sunni and the president an Alawite, a minority Shia sect. A one-time advocate of reform, Asma Assad was involved with NGOs and made public appearances championing women’s rights, prompting Vogue magazine to run a gushing article entitled “A Rose in the Desert.” (It was pulled from the magazine’s web site but can still be read here.) Her last public appearance was at her husband’s side during a pro-government rally earlier this month. The exact extent of her influence is not known, but she is widely presumed to be less powerful than Anisa Assad, the president’s mother, and to be disliked by her sister-in-law, Bushra Assad.
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