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Lebanese designer Elie Saab praises 'gentle lady' Asma al-Assad

Syrian activists have called for Asma al-Assad's British citizenship to be revoked [AFP/Getty]

Date of publication: 25 September, 2019

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Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab spoke positively about Bashar al-Assad's wife on a pro-regime channel.
Lebanese fashion designer Elie Saab praised the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Asma al-Assad, in an interview which aired on pro-regime channel Lana Monday evening.

Saab featured on the second episode of "Hakayati", in which he spoke to journalist Rabia Zayyat about how he became a famous fashion designer.

In the final ten minutes of the interview, Zayyat posed a series of questions to Saab about a number of personalities, including the wives of Arab leaders. 

When asked about Asma al-Assad, Saab described her as a "gentle lady" and a "breeze".

The 55-year-old designer said he had dealt with Assad on multiple occasions and that she possessed simplicity, logic, and that she was a "sensitive lady".

He also described Queen Rania of Jordan as "one of the most modern Arab women".

This is not the first time Saab has endorsed a controversial figure. He faced a backlash on social media in 2018 after his label posted a picture on Instagram of Israeli actor and former Israel Defense Forces combat trainer Gal Gadot in one of his dresses.

Asma al-Assad, whose father is a cardiologist and whose mother is a diplomat, has two sons and a daughter with Assad.

Born in 1975 in Britain, the former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and the modern face of the Assad family, which has ruled Syria with an iron fist since 1970.

However, she has supported her husband through the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations and the bloody conflict which followed, in which more than 500,000 Syrians were killed, mostly as a result of regime bombardment of civilian areas.

In 2012, leaked emails revealed that she had spent £250,000 on lavish furniture and £5,000 on crystal-encrusted heels, while Syrian cities were being devastated by the Assad regime.

Many Syrians consider her complicit in Bashar al-Assad’s war, and there have been calls for her British citizenship to be revoked.

The international fashion industry distanced itself from the Assad family. Anna Wintour, the editor-in-chief of Vogue apologised for an interview published prior to the Syrian revolution in which Asma was described as a "desert rose".

Read also: The Butcher's Bride - Syrian activists call for revoking British citizenship of Assad's wife

"Subsequent to our interview, as the terrible events of the past year and a half unfolded in Syria, it became clear that its priorities and values were completely at odds with those of Vogue," Wintour said.

"The escalating atrocities in Syria are unconscionable and we deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms."

The interview was paid for by the Assad regime as part of a public relations offensive. 

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