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. Guy

    No excuse, if you didnt know the Assad family is nothing but a Mafia clan that has taken over an entire country then you were very naiv, howcome israelis dosnt get surprised when we see what is happening in Syria, the answer is ofcourse because we know exactly what these criminals are. Secondly why should a dictators wife be of any interrest, who cares who sleeps with the dictators.

    July 31, 2012 at 9:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      Asma is likely very much behind her man if not dictating to him what he should do. She is no shrinking violet. The fact that she is supporting the regime , means she will be made accountable along with him when that regime comes down...and it will. The fate of the country has been decided and in "good" time, will crash and burn, like the Qaddafi regime did. Unless they sneak out and hide somewhere like SIberia, they will likely be jailed if not killed. The people have suffered long enough as returning to the ways of the past are not an option for them.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:10 am | Report abuse |
    • aj

      the israelis are the biggest terrorist in the world.They are the same if not worse then the syrian regime.The only difference is that the US is backing it up with 4 billion dollar a year of tax payers money.The israelis murder little children and then call them terrorist.This is not the first time a jewish state has been created over the centuries only to collapse.The israelis always cry palestinians did this and this to us.Well there were people living in palestine and the israeli murdered them and now there fighting back so dont give me that israel innocence bull grap.its called palestine

      August 1, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
  2. badcyclist

    Interesting. I wrote a note pointing out that other media routinely publish puff pieces, including the operator of this site, and it was deleted. It was the greatest comment ever posted in internet history, and now it has been lost to history thanks to the censors here.....

    (Yes, it was G-rated).

    July 31, 2012 at 10:22 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Hope

    All I know, for sure, is that she was SHOPPING!!!

    made me wonder...

    July 31, 2012 at 10:33 pm | Report abuse |
    • Hope

      Then... it was Vogue saying:

      No more shoppin' for you...

      Banned from the exclusive isle.

      Redesign Yourself,
      Hope

      July 31, 2012 at 10:40 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Hope

    😀

    (in your dreams)...

    July 31, 2012 at 11:02 pm | Report abuse |
  5. f fb

    prior to his demise, bin laden was hoping that buck would help him to rehabilitate his image.

    July 31, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
  6. RhapsodyNBlue

    well, people that live in glass houses and all....

    August 1, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  7. RhapsodyNBlue

    I mean...they're begging for it...
    "glass walled house"??

    August 1, 2012 at 12:17 am | Report abuse |
  8. Charles B

    I think she is one hot mama.

    August 1, 2012 at 1:18 am | Report abuse |
    • mike k.

      if she were a prehistoric mammal, she'd be a "baber-tooth tiger."

      seriously, people are dying.

      August 1, 2012 at 7:07 am | Report abuse |
  9. blind's eye

    This is what happens when you focus on fashion while disreguarding social and political issues crying to be addressed.
    Keep reading Vogue and the likes and turn a blind eye from society's ailments....

    August 1, 2012 at 1:47 am | Report abuse |
  10. ShowerFairy

    My personal view is we should be sending a tomahawk missile to kill HIM and his entire family. I have zero tolerance for dictators and their families. This is fact, his kids and wife have/will never amount to anything. It would not bother me a bit. How many syrian families need to be destroyed before we decide this has gone on long enough?

    Obama please send over a drone and wipe this assad family out!

    August 1, 2012 at 4:15 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      We can't do that. Taking sides in a civil war is a very bad thing, even though civilians are suffering. All we could do is to give assistance to the wounded but the regime is not letting rescue missions over the borders. They don't want the press either. It is an internal issue. As much as the world feels about the poor people getting slaughtered, there is little we can do about it. We could supply arms to the rebels so they can at least defend themselves. Saudi and Yemen are doing it. It looks much better them doing it than the US.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:16 am | Report abuse |
  11. Chris

    It is so irritating to see her perfectly groomed hair and that smirk on her face. As for the iranian Press TV crap, that is the middle easts version of a FOX style news channel – only idiots believe their one sided crop. Dancing on a fine line between reportage and opinion pieces. Armed terrorists from Turkey? That's ridiculous, Turkey is not Afghanistan or Pakistan – more European than middle eastern.

    August 1, 2012 at 4:28 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      It is a fact Fox is a product of the Murdoch philosophy that shows the public manipulated pieces to benefit their radical right views. They are the perfect example of what money can buy if misused. Intelligent and informed people do not watch Fox but many people do and will believe what they see. We know the percentages....lots of fools out there, willing to be lied to by the likes of these nitwits.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:23 am | Report abuse |
    • Wade

      Comparing Fox to a State-Run news agency is a little disingenuous. Slanting opinion and 'expert' commentary towards your own political beliefs is nowhere near as severe as being told what to broadcast word-by-word from your countries dictator.

      August 1, 2012 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  12. nystar

    She should be in Syria trying to stop her hubby from any more massacres of innocent people.only then she will gain respect from the world

    August 1, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • alumette

      I don't think she is trying. She seems to feel these innocent people are getting what they deserve. She is in denial or maybe worst....behind this mess with her husband. She occupies her time shopping instead.....how is that for looking the other way ? How could you dress up in designer clothes when your people are starving and getting killed ? Remember Marie-Antoinette ? it is coming to her. It will be her fate.

      August 1, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  13. Heywood

    Come on people, the zionists control the media so it must be their fault, right?

    August 1, 2012 at 11:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. youbet

    "Israel." The name itself sounded like the place is real. As I bought my plane tickets in the hopes I would land in an actual country #countriesbyvoguewriters

    August 1, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  15. PJ

    Looking forward to what the Rebels will do to her. Make Assad watch before you put BOTH their heads on pikestaffs.

    August 2, 2012 at 11:39 am | Report abuse |
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