Mrs. Al-Assad Inauguration Speech of the 1st NGO Conference
'''The civil society plays an increasingly more important role in support of development process in the world. In Syria, the number of NGOs has been notably mushroomed, with 300 percent increase for the last five years. Most importantly, the civil society activity has covered new fields, never so before, like education, vocational rehabilitation, health, environment, not to mention the support of the civil society to small and medium economic initiatives and many other fields. This qualitative development clearly reflects but the seriousness of the Syrian Government in the supporting and enabling of the civil society, out of their conviction that the civil society is one of the basic factors in the ongoing development and building process,'' said Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad, Syria's First Lady, in a remarkable speech during her inauguration of the ''Emerging Role of Civil Society in Development'' Conference, the First NGO International Development Conference of Syria organized by the Syria Trust for Development, Damascus, December 23, 2010, declaring the would be soon issued Governmental Law for Syria's NGOs.
''The sustainable and successful development of every society, as you know, is the one that is based on the large venture of available and organized human resources, and on interaction with foreign experiences,'' said Mrs. Al-Assad, calling upon Syria's NGOs as to improve their administration; draw out ambitious and realistic visions and programs, rehabilitate their cadres, and as to consolidate a team-work institutional and transparent mechanism of action, with many innovative ideas and modern technology implementation to the best of investing available resources. Further, Her Excellency Mrs. Al-Assad underscored the importance of the realization of the just and Comprehensive Peace, citing the concomitance between stability and development.
''We have neither to be concerned about failure, nor to have our willingness weakened, when we work for the success of civil society experience in development process. We indeed have to transform mistake into beneficial lessons,'' added Her Excellency the First Lady Mrs. Al-Assad, citing the standing partnership between the Syrian Government and NGOs in several joint projects, highly appreciating the Syrian Arab Society fertile social background, based on the deeply-rooted solidarity and unity among every social class and sector.
Edited & Translated by
Mohamad Abdo Al-Ibrahim
Rome, December 23, 2010.
Mrs. Al-Assad Voyager Interview
She is the British-born Syrian banker who married a pivotal president of the Middle East. As one half of the most powerful young couple in the region, how does Asma al-Assad still keep in touch with the grassroots?
INTERVIEW | ANDRE ASTOELKE / TCS AND HUGH MACLEOD
AS SHE HERSELF IS SO OFTEN SAID TO DO, let us begin this story of Asma al-Assad by breaking a little presidential protocol.
Let us agree that there is more to her than her glamorous good looks. Can we put aside that tempting notion – gushing forth from nearly every article written by the Western press about her – that Asma, and her neighbouring first lady, Queen Rania of Jordan, are the convention-defying beauties representing a new generation of Arab women? As if, somehow, possession of high cheekbones, a brilliant white smile and the ability to wear jeans and drive a car are the leadership qualities appropriate to a woman.
And, anyway, being both a beautiful and accomplished woman from the Middle East is in no way unusual. Let us also put aside for a moment that Asma was once voted the world’s most elegant political woman by French Elle magazine, beating even the glossy glamour of France’s own première dame, Carla Sarkozy?
The time has come to take Syria’s First Lady at her word. “People in Europe or in the West do tend to focus more on what women look like rather than how effective they are or what they do, and that’s women in politics, in the business world, celebrities and fashion.”
Mrs. Al-Assad's SOMENA National Team Statements
Her Excellency Mrs. Asma Al-Assad, Syria's First Lady, paid a field visit to the Syrian National Team participating in the 7th Regional Special Olympics, Damascus, September 22, 2010. Among the said by Her Excellency are the following according to SANA:
"We in Syria have dealt with this Olympics not only as a sport, but also as an event related to the whole society. Subsequently, the society should completely participate, not only the categories and segments concerned." said Mrs. Al-Assad.
"The success you have achieved corrects the society's perception towards disability and the disabled through your aspiration, commitment, determination and your capabilities which you have been able to prove over the last nine months." said Mrs. Al-Assad.
"Today, it is impossible to talk about integrating the disabled into their society because they are already a part of it, and you were able to prove this matter in a strong and tangible way…The issue of disability nowadays has entered all the Syrian houses as it became the main point of discussion by the Syrian community due to the efforts you have exerted " Mrs. Al-Assad said addressing the players.
"The Olympics is an opportunity for you in the next stage as you were able to introduce the Syrian society to the disabled people and how much they could contribute to building society and to excel, now it is time to introduce yourselves to the Arab and regional society who will watch you during the Olympics in the coming period to see how much you have been able to contribute and how ambitious you are," Mrs. Al-Assad said.
Asma et Bachar el-Assad : deux amoureux à Paris
En marge de sa visite officielle en France, le président syrien et sa femme se sont offert une escapade amoureuse dans la plus romantique des capitales
Un entretien avec Régis Le Sommier - Paris Match
Paris Match. Vous êtes née et avez grandi en Angleterre, où vous avez rencontré votre mari. Comment avez-vous vécu votre retour en Syrie pour devenir la première dame du pays ?
Asma El-Assad. Je suis syrienne et peu importe l’endroit où je suis née, je me suis toujours sentie syrienne. J’ai vécu à Londres pendant vingt-cinq ans. J’ai donc eu la chance d’être exposée aux deux cultures et en particulier à une quantité d’expériences que la culture britannique avait à m’offrir. Lorsque je suis rentrée, je n’ai jamais pensé que je partais vivre dans un endroit inconnu. Pour moi, c’était comme si je retournais à la maison. Je parlais la langue, je vivais dans la culture syrienne et j’étais consciente de l’héritage. La seule différence, c’est qu’en Angleterre j’étais célibataire, alors qu’en Syrie j’étais mariée. Etre désignée comme première dame est un privilège et un honneur. C’est aussi beaucoup de travail, surtout en Syrie où les gens veulent que vous vous impliquiez. Ils ne veulent pas qu’une première dame soit là uniquement pour les cérémonies. Ils exigent que vous soyez partie prenante dans le développement du pays et que vous accompagniez le changement qui est en train de se produire.
Vous avez été une femme d’affaires. Est-ce un avantage dans votre action aujourd’hui ?
Il y a des choses que vous pouvez planifier dans la vie. J’ai fait des études d’informatique à l’université. J’ai voulu travailler dans une banque d’investissement et faire un MBA. Mais je n’avais pas prévu d’épouser un chef d’Etat. La vie est pleine de surprises. Je l’ai épousé pour les valeurs qu’il incarne et parce que nous nous sentons très proches. Bien sûr, mon expérience professionnelle, tout ce que j’ai appris dans la finance me sert aujourd’hui : avoir un jugement critique, être capable de travailler avec une énorme pression. Je travaille dans le développement, dans l’éducation et la citoyenneté, et ma formation me sert.
On remarque que des premières dames comme Michelle Obama ou Carla Bruni jouent un rôle de plus en plus visible auprès de leur mari, spécialement pour améliorer leur image. Comment concevez-vous votre rôle ?
Je ne pense pas que mon mari ait un problème d’image. [Rires.] Il n’a besoin ni de moi ni de personne pour améliorer son image. Mais l’image peut être fausse et construite, ou elle peut être vraie. J’essaie de m’attacher à la vérité. Je pars de là pour envisager ce qui doit changer dans mon pays. En ce sens, je crois que mon mari et moi, nous nous complétons. Les premières dames sont longtemps restées dans l’ombre, et l’émergence des femmes en politique est récente. Tout dépend de quel endroit du monde il s’agit. En Extrême-Orient, il y a plus de trente ans que des femmes ont atteint des positions de présidents. Au Moyen-Orient, je suis loin d’être la seule.
Asma al-Assad: A Rose in the Desert
Photographed by James Nachtwey
Asma al-Assad is glamorous, young, and very chic—the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies. Her style is not the couture-and-bling dazzle of Middle Eastern power but a deliberate lack of adornment. She’s a rare combination: a thin, long-limbed beauty with a trained analytic mind who dresses with cunning understatement. Paris Match calls her “the element of light in a country full of shadow zones.” She is the first lady of Syria.
Syria is known as the safest country in the Middle East, possibly because, as the State Department’s Web site says, “the Syrian government conducts intense physical and electronic surveillance of both Syrian citizens and foreign visitors.” It’s a secular country where women earn as much as men and the Muslim veil is forbidden in universities, a place without bombings, unrest, or kidnappings, but its shadow zones are deep and dark. Asma’s husband, Bashar al-Assad, was elected president in 2000, after the death of his father, Hafez al-Assad, with a startling 97 percent of the vote. In Syria, power is hereditary. The country’s alliances are murky. How close are they to Iran, Hamas, and Hezbollah? There are souvenir Hezbollah ashtrays in the souk, and you can spot the Hamas leadership racing through the bar of the Four Seasons. Its number-one enmity is clear: Israel. But that might not always be the case. The United States has just posted its first ambassador there since 2005, Robert Ford.
Iraq is next door, Iran not far away. Lebanon’s capital, Beirut, is 90 minutes by car from Damascus. Jordan is south, and next to it the region that Syrian maps label Palestine. There are nearly one million refugees from Iraq in Syria, and another half-million displaced Palestinians.
“It’s a tough neighborhood,” admits Asma al-Assad.
It’s also a neighborhood intoxicatingly close to the dawn of civilization, where agriculture began some 10,000 years ago, where the wheel, writing, and musical notation were invented. Out in the desert are the magical remains of Palmyra, Apamea, and Ebla. In the National Museum you see small 4,000-year-old panels inlaid with mother-of-pearl that is echoed in the new mother-of-pearl furniture for sale in the souk. Christian Louboutin comes to buy the damask silk brocade they’ve been making here since the Middle Ages for his shoes and bags, and has incidentally purchased a small palace in Aleppo, which, like Damascus, has been inhabited for more than 5,000 years.
The first lady works out of a small white building in a hilly, modern residential neighborhood called Muhajireen, where houses and apartments are crammed together and neighbors peer and wave from balconies. The first impression of Asma al-Assad is movement—a determined swath cut through space with a flash of red soles. Dark-brown eyes, wavy chin-length brown hair, long neck, an energetic grace. No watch, no jewelry apart from Chanel agates around her neck, not even a wedding ring, but fingernails lacquered a dark blue-green. She’s breezy, conspiratorial, and fun. Her accent is English but not plummy. Despite what must be a killer IQ, she sometimes uses urban shorthand: “I was, like. . . .”
Asma Akhras was born in London in 1975, the eldest child and only daughter of a Syrian Harley Street cardiologist and his diplomat wife, both Sunni Muslims. They spoke Arabic at home. She grew up in Ealing, went to Queen’s College, and spent holidays with family in Syria. “I’ve dealt with the sense that people don’t expect Syria to be normal. I’d show my London friends my holiday snaps and they’d be—‘Where did you say you went?’ ”