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'Stop being a bystander,' letter urges Syria's first lady [Video]

April 18, 2012 | 11:11 am

Asma Assad, the glamorous Syrian first lady, has confounded many in the Western world: a cosmopolitan woman educated in the West who has stood by her husband, President Bashar Assad, as his government cracked down on the rebellion that has raged  for more than a year.

Once feted in a glowing article in Vogue Magazine, Asma Assad has since become better known for the emails leaked to the Guardian that depict her living in luxury as the Syrian people suffer, apparently spending thousands on French chandeliers and candlesticks. She was recently slapped with sanctions to stop her European shopping sprees, the latest sign of how her reputation has plummeted.

A new online campaign is focusing on Asma Assad, prodding her with an online video that intersperses scenes of bloodied Syrians -- including children -- with footage of her. It plays off her past words and media exposure to pressure her to take a stand against the violence.

"Stop being a bystander," an online petition tied to the video argues. "No one cares about your image. We care about your action."

More than 7,000 people have now signed the letter to Asma Assad, which reportedly is the brainchild Huberta Wittig, a German journalist who is married to that nation's U.N. ambassador, and Sheila Lyall Grant, who is married to Britain's U.N. ambassador.

"We came up with this idea really to make Asma speak out; her voice is desperately needed in stopping the bloodshed," Wittig told Foreign Policy Magazine. "She can't hide behind her husband any more."

The letter comes as an attempted peace plan in Syria appears to be disintegrating, with both rebels and the regime saying that attacks have continued. Opposition activists said that at least 32 people had been killed by the regime  on Wednesday, including one child.


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Video: A campaign calling for Asma Assad to take a stand against violence in Syria. Credit: "A Letter to Asma al-Assad" via YouTube