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Bashar Assad's wife may be cut off from European shopping, travel

March 22, 2012 |  2:54 pm

Asma Assad

The wife of Syrian President Bashar Assad may be cut off from European travel and shopping in an attempt to ramp up pressure on the Syrian government, halting her reported spending sprees for expensive French chandeliers and candlesticks.

The European Union may soon institute asset freezes and a travel ban on Asma Assad and other Syrians not previously affected, according to multiple news reports attributed to unnamed EU diplomats. A dozen more people will be added to a blacklist of roughly 150 people and firms, Agence France-Presse reported.

The Syrian first lady had once been seen as a cosmopolitan and liberalizing force in the Assad regime. She was reared and educated in Britain, even profiled in Vogue as “a rose in the desert.”

But the recent leak of thousands of private emails to the Guardian newspaper, purportedly from Bashar and Asma Assad, painted her as a Marie Antoinette figure living in luxury, disconnected from the violence raging in Syria since a government crackdown began on opposition demonstrations a year ago. The emails make it appear that Asma used an alias to buy goods from Europe.

Those purchases could land her in prison if she has kept her British citizenship, because EU citizens are banned from making “funds or economic resources” available to Bashar Assad, the Telegraph reported.

The Syrian uprising has been the most violent of the "Arab Spring" revolts. More than 10,000 people are believed to have been killed in the conflict, according to U.N. and Syrian government figures.

The Assad government has been condemned by human rights groups for killings and torture, as have some rebels in the decentralized opposition. The United Nations Security Council has called for a cease-fire, aid for wounded and struggling Syrians and political talks between the government and its opponents.


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Photo: Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, are greeted by supporters as they arrive Feb. 26  to cast their votes on the Syrian constitution. Credit: Syrian Arab News Agency