A YouTube campaign kicked off on Wednesday, led by the wives of UN ambassadors from Britain and Germany.
It calls on Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad, to break from her husband and renounce the violence in the country. Asma has stood beside her husband throughout a 13-month conflict that the UN said has left more than 9,000 people dead.
From glamor-queen to sanctioned wife of an increasingly brutal dictator, Asma al-Assad’s fall from grace has been precipitous. A little over a year ago she was glowingly profiled in Vogue magazine, and giving speeches about justice.
“We all deserve the same thing. We should all be able to live in peace, stability, and with our dignities,” she said in one 2008 speech.
But then her husband launched a violent crackdown on pro-democracy protests.
And someone leaked emails that appeared to show Asma in the midst of an online shopping binge, spending tens of thousands on candlesticks, designer shoes and chandeliers from Paris.
And swapping jokey YouTube videos with her husband.
Those emails were the last straw for critics.
The European Union added Asma to a sanctions list to prevent her from traveling – or shopping – in Europe.
And now, a video appealing to al-Assad opponents worldwide.
“This is a letter to Asma al Assad, signed by women all over the world,” begins the video.
The video includes gruesome images of death and destruction, and a plea to Asma to break from her husband.
“Some women pretend to have no choice,” the letter reads. “And some women just act. What happened to you, Asma?”
The idea for the video came from Sheila Lyall Grant, wife of the British Ambassdor to the UN and Huberta von Voss-Wittig, wife of Germany’s UN Ambassador.
“We think she can speak out openly, publicly, that the bloodshed has to stop,” said von Voss-Wittig. She said Asma must insist on peace over violence.
“Peace has to come along. And it might be a risk for her, but thousands of Syrian women are taking risks every day since a year.”
But Asma al-Assad may not be one to take those kinds of risks.
Andrew Tabler, author of “In the Lion’s Den, An Eye Witness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria,” said Asma is a “stand by her man” kind of woman.
“It would be significant, though, if she did leave Syria or she somehow broke with her husband. It would be a real shot in the arm to the Syrian people,” Tabler said. “But I don’t expect that any time soon.”
But don’t knock the Ambassador’s wives for trying, said Joshua Landis.
He’s Director of the Center for Middle East Studies at the University of Oklahoma.
He said the video is part of a wider public relations battle to get the west – especially the US – to act against the Assad regime.
“If you want to overthrow the regime, you know in democracies you have to mobilize public opinion and today most Americans don’t want to get involved in Syria according to opinion polls, and I think the politicians are sensitive to that,” Landis said.
One of the potential roadblocks, should Asma decide to renounce her husband’s regime is where she’d go.
Besides the EU ban, Britain has made clear she’s not welcome there either… even though she’s a British citizen.
The U.S. Embassy in Damascus did not produced this video, but we fully support its effort… fb.me/1wbE5OPIA
— U.S. Embassy Syria (@USEmbassySyria) April 18, 2012