July 31st, 2012
12:49 PM ET

Tweets mock ex-Vogue writer who wrote puff piece on Asma al-Assad

As speculation goes into overdrive about whether Syrian President Bashar al-Assad will fall, it’s still unclear where his posh British-born wife is. Is she in England? in Syria? Is she with their three young children somewhere?

Asma al-Assad may be MIA but that didn’t stop her from inspiring, in a way, a taunting Twitter hashtag overnight.

#countriesbyvoguewriters took off after a former Vogue writer, Joan Juliet Buck, published an explainer piece in Newsweek on Monday. Buck is the author of a March 2011 piece about Asma al-Assad titled “A Rose in the Desert.” Many people attacked Buck for glamorizing the Syrian first couple and completely ignoring Syria’s history of human rights abuses.

The profile appeared in the print March 2011 version. Vogue apparently removed the story from its website later though it remains available on a pro-Assad site.

In June, Vogue's editor in chief Anna Wintour released a brief statement saying that the Syrian regime’s “priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue.

Buck, for the most part, didn’t address her critics. The magazine, she said, asked her not to. But, as her Newsweek article explained, Vogue did not renew her contract at the end of 2012 and she is now free to talk.

So she begins her explanation this way, saying she just shouldn’t have gone to a country whose name gave her the willies.

"Syria. The name itself sounded sinister, like syringe, or hiss," Buck wrote.

Cue the Twitter taunts at #countriesbyvoguewriters:

[tweet https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks/status/229921393184235522%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/rachelhinda/status/230311043845480448%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/laclabra/status/230034234952278016%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/KarlreMarks/status/229931624438038529%5D

[tweet https://twitter.com/cszabla/status/230004220395388928%5D

The Atlantic jumped into the fun by publishing a mock profile of North Korea’s new first lady, “A Rose in the Baekdu.”

Rather than helping Buck, some critics say she’s used the shovel Vogue gave her to bury herself deeper. The New Republic said Buck's way of doing journalism is an insult to other journalists. Jezebel suggests Buck is lying to make it seem like, as she claims, the Assads "duped" her. New York magazine linked out to the hashtag. .

Despite criticism of Buck, her Newsweek story does reveal a few new and interesting tidbits about the Assads - admittedly facts that would have been interesting to include in her Vogue story.

* Asma al-Assad made children cry by lying to them that a youth center was going to close. Buck said Asma told her it was intended to get the kids “out of their comfort zone."

* The Assads enjoy family fondue. Buck joined them one evening at their glass-walled home, and asked Bashar al-Assad why he chose to study ophthalmology. He said he liked it because “it’s very precise, and there is very little blood.”

* Minders assigned to Buck by the Assads gave the journalist a cell phone when she arrived in Syria. They explained to her that her American cell phone wouldn’t work in Syria. She believed them. It never occurred to her that the phone might be used to eavesdrop on her conversations.

* Buck claims that workers at the London PR agency Brown Lloyd James worked with the Assads and prevented the journalist from reporting on the ruling family.

If those details are accurate, they add to the profile of a couple whose fate is a big question right now. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Monday that it wasn’t a question of whether al-Assad could fall from power, but when.

Some legal scholars have said it’s possible that Bashar al-Assad could face charges of crimes against humanity in an international courtroom. So what could happen to his wife? Could Asma al-Assad face a similar judgment day?

International law experts say that’s highly unlikely. A prosecutor would have to prove the Syrian first lady was involved in a decision-making process in her husband’s government. So far, there’s no known evidence of that.

“There’s a difference between moral responsibility and legal culpability,” said M. Cherif Bassiouni, an international war crimes expert who has worked for decades in international law and serves as a professor emeritus at DePaul University.

“She is a little like the wife of a Mafia don,” he said. “She may be with the man who kills, she can even brag about his crimes, but she won’t be punished for them.”

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Filed under: Syria
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. ThrowMeaBone

    A "puff piece" from Vogue? That claim is pretty rich coming from CNN...the pot is calling the kettle black.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:09 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Meredith

    So....? If Vogue is feeling the backlash now, they shouldn't have authorized this puff piece in the first place. Vogue is a fashion magazine, for cripe's sake...saying anything about Syria at all was dumb.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:10 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Meredith

    Ah yes...passing the Buck.

    July 31, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Freedom Fascist

    Oh yes, the Assad family is just terrible. But what about the Bush family or the Cheney family or the Obama family. Surely we could make a case in a court of law for crimes against humanity. And I would be willing to bet that it is CIA and Mossad financing and aiding the bloodshed in Syria. Is that not a crime? It disturbs me that this kind of propaganda not only exists but it accepted by the masses without due thought or questioning. Who would say on these boards that the west is gearing up to attack Syria – because they are. Iran was too big a target because they were ready. Syria trusted its Israeli proliferation treaty from 2005, just like Ghadafi trusted his American handshake from the late 90's. C;mon people, al-Assad has less blood and injustice on his hands then our government does. Is it the food they are feeding you? The TV you watch and believe every night? How have they made you so stupid and complacent. Did you know that the interest owed to our military industrial complex will dwarf the governments income by 2013? Why isn't that a big headline? What's going to happen when we have no economy left and a big military? Wake up America, you need to wake up! This chick in Syria is no more guilty than Barack or George W's wives. Jesus, your ignorance is the death of our freedom!

    July 31, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • Malfean

      You don't like your country so much, then move. You won't be missed.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gufron

      To Freedom Fascist. Wow, you almost sound convincing as an american. However just go back over your post and see where you mention the US people as "our" and and then you slip back into calling them "they".
      Why don't you go to Syri yourself if you dont believe the so called West? Even large Muslim based countries are condemning Syria. Even those that previously called them friends and who also happen to be not pro western are calling for Al Assad to give up.
      As to your online name? The first part is maybe a misnomer, the second part though probably fits like a glove.

      Cheers Fascist! and say hi to Franco, Mussolini and Hitler.

      July 31, 2012 at 2:40 pm | Report abuse |
    • The Decline

      Freedom Fascist – Ummmmm what have you been smoking? Are you saying the last 2 presidents have more blood on their hands than Assad? I see you provided no numbers to back up that asinine statement. Good luck with your delusions

      July 31, 2012 at 2:43 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meredith

      Freedom Fascist, if you are American, move. If you are not American, stay where you are and do not comment on things you merely hear on your own anti-American news propganda programs.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Krusty

      I just had the chip implanted into my wrist and I feel great! Plus it's really helped with my cell phone reception.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:07 pm | Report abuse |
  5. TM

    It's shameful for CNN to be after a women so bitterly. Faithful spouses stand by their spouses in the darkest hours. What do they expect from Asma? And why such sattire at first place? May be the uprising against the regime is genuine but media like CNN is making that very doubtful by such reckless and biased reporting. Where are human rights abuses highlighted of the arab leaders elsewhere??? Why such selective morality???

    July 31, 2012 at 2:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Meredith

      Cnn is not condemimg anyone. They are reporting on a Vogue article that had people talking about Asma. Nowhere do I see Cnn having any type of opinion one way or another about her.

      July 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm | Report abuse |

    All warlords wives. except for ours, are Dragon Ladys .
    There is no respect for motherhood or the spouces of your enrmies in wartime.
    The US military upon invading Iraq had a deck of cards showing the most wanted and within days of invasion when all cards were not gound the arrested and imprisoned wives and children of those face cards. in an attempt to make them durrender

    July 31, 2012 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Trololololol

    Asma MIA? Must be seeking a breath of fresh air.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  8. raven

    Ah yes, the old "dash a childs hope with a lie" character-builder. Right up there with the "hard labor in a prison camp" to teach work ethics. How avant-garde, Asma!

    July 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
    • banasy©

      Hey, sos!
      How true.
      What a character builder *that* is.
      Right up there with "this is going to hurt *me* more than it hurts *you*"...

      July 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  9. desertpat

    I wonder what she will say when (and it is just a matter of time) the rebels get a hold of her.
    I hope they don't make her husband watch.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm | Report abuse |
  10. Clarice

    She seems glamorous like Moochelle O.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:47 pm | Report abuse |
    • denouemen

      Clarice! Does your mommy know you're using the computer?

      July 31, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jonathan

    That woman is HOT! I'd like 20 minutes alone with her feet.

    July 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. Jonathan

    Vogue should try running a country. It isn't easy.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
  13. EVN

    She looks pretty clueless in that picture so she must be innocent of having any complicity with the acts of husband the butcher of Damascus (and Aleppo and dozens upon dozens of other places in Syria).

    July 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm | Report abuse |
  14. SoldierofFortunes

    Tell Assad the Wrong Address says Godsmack – the Enemy – CHECKMATE...better look at your hand Assad...do the math...

    July 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm | Report abuse |
  15. ahwassaguziam

    Asma will be hunted down and dealt with like a dog. She will know many men intimately and repeatedly before her head is severed from her neck.

    July 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • J

      Your statement and it's barbarism is what turns many people away from being compassionate toward the middle east. Really? " she will know many men intimately before her head is severed". God is watching.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • J.C.

      ahwassaguziam is not mad about Asama for aiding and abetting her husband in the killing children and leading her adopted country into civil war. He's just mad she's being shown in a photo without a head scarf.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Denver

      First of all, a writer from Vogue should hardly be taken seriously. It's like looking to Sesame Street for public policy. Second,blaming the wife without evidence, a defense, a jury, and a well-reasoned judgement is uncivilized. Why aren't you threatening Bassar? Why don't you rain down your evil prayers on HIS head, not hers?

      July 31, 2012 at 4:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • 4solidarity

      think those things if you do, say what you have to say, but be careful what you put in writing.

      July 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm | Report abuse |
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