After being criticised for its puff piece on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife Asma, Anna Wintour — known across the world as the final word on fashion — has come out in public and criticised the stylish First Lady. The 3,200-word profile, which was published in March 2011, carried the headline ‘A Rose in the Desert’ and described the British-born Assad as “the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies”.
It went on to describe her walking “a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles,” which was a reference to her Christian Louboutin heels. The article was part of a public relations offensive launched by the Assad regime, which included paying a US public relations firm $5,000 (Rs 2.8 lakh) a month for acting as a point of liaison between Vogue and Asma Assad. The article was removed from Vogue’s website in the spring.
The magazine’s chief issued a statement condemning the Assad regime. “Like many at that time, we were hopeful that the Assad regime would be open to a more progressive society,” she said. “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. The escalating atrocities in Syria are unconscionable and we deplore the actions of the Assad regime in the strongest possible terms.”
The move came a week after the American journalist Barbara Walters said she “regretted” trying to help Sheherazad Jaafari, the Syrian leader’s press aide, to get a job at CNN and a place at Columbia University. Jaafari had also been an intern at the public relations firm that liaised with Vogue on behalf of Asma Assad.