tv Doc Film - Asma al- Assad - The Beautiful Face of the Dictatorship Deutsche Welle October 2, 2017 5:15pm-6:01pm CEST
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double you on twitter and on facebook. and they did i thought there was something in this comparison with lady di we diplomats let ourselves be seduced. we put our hopes in that couple they were perfect. she very much contributed to this image that bashar and his wife would take syria in a different direction. she was very beautiful very sweet and very nice and she said
to me what do i need to do to be a good first lady. she was. lies. it's difficult to say that with. everything we know. many people one. cannot believe you when you say that a mistake international says that there are hundreds of thousands of political prisoners people under the torture etc etc they don't believe you they say look at . us my last had serious first lady the west saw in her the ideal of a female arab ruler beautiful educated and modern today she's seen as the accomplice of a dictator who commits crimes against his own people her story is the story of
a deception and it starts here in the west. as the daughter of wealthy syrians living in london asma our class with raised like an english girl she called herself emirates school and went to an exclusive english girls' school. her family lived in this london suburb her father was a syrian doctor with his own practice affluent successful established in the west. was also to become successful. she worked as a finance analyst for don't you bank and hope to study at harvard then in the ninety's she met an aspiring eye doctor a syrian unassuming a little bit shy and then in london for a short time. there are two things i always try to work towards.
trying to get to harvard this was a childhood dream and the other was to try and help syria try and work for syria even living abroad or living in london. when i didn't get accepted to harvard came at a time when i found the man i loved so it was almost not a choice. who would choose harvard over love. as small as great love was bashed aside he was part of the assad family clan his father had fees had seized power in syria in one thousand nine hundred seventy via a coup you did in a few years anyone who travels to syria will realize that every border crossing where they are namely in assad syria this country is in the private hands of a clam that's organized like the mafia and everything in this country is designed to support assad's rule because the whole of society is transfused by a network that the assads created and expanded over the decades about.
half east assad room. the socialist one party state in syria with the help of the military and the intelligence services all critics were eliminated the dictator had thousands of people arrested and killed the country's economy was run into the ground it was corrupt when have fees died in the year two thousand syria was considered one of the darkest detained to ships in the world the stage to funeral marches were deceptive for many the death of the dictator gave hope to change have fees al assad had chosen his own successor. his son bashar was the only candidate in the presidential election. what to fight when half died i felt like i had woken up from a nightmare if you had thought i was certain that his successor whether it
was bush or someone else would be better i mean much about poverty as an official assad was like an octopus that had spread across the end of china syrian society. sour as a rock bash i was not born to rule it said he hadn't wanted power and would have preferred to become an eye doctor. so i did some photos of the one nine hundred ninety six four years before he was president. i remember mainly someone you're shy but sometimes embarrassed about what was happening around him you know you had to really hope because i always thought that the regime. needed someone of the gorbachev someone who would and the dictatorship opened a new era. this eerie and people hadn't heard all bowl seen
a first lady at the side of the new president their wedding was held in secret as my side allegedly then traveled around the country anonymously to get to know it. she said she wanted to become an ambassador of syrians. the election that made. the president of syria wasn't a democratic one but many syrians believed he would bring democracy to the country what we had only heard good things about him people talked about the young pleasant bashar who would bring reforms and democracy. we thought he would herald a new beginning a whole new era for syria. has. asked
the daughter of a regime opponent jumana saif had lived in constant fear under hafiz and assad the syrian secret services often silence their critics by threatening members of their family. to manas father saif is to this day one of the best known regime critics in syria the one successful businessman angered by shah assad's father by speaking out against corruption and oppression but he went to fall for the regime he had crossed a line i thought so i mean it was in one nine hundred ninety six bashar is father was still in power when my brother just appeared without a trace he was twenty one and had gone to the seaside with a friend his friend returned but my brother didn't he was never found but if you
live in syria you know what's meant by that few women because it was a very clear warning to my father from the old regime because he had become politically active he says heads. the fear of fear seemed to come to an end when bashar al assad became president. in his first speech he announced economic reforms promised social reforms and even spoke of democracy it was an encouraging message for the many syrians who dreamed of freedom. were. in one today at the but in two thousand something finally happened in this country people started to meet and debate there were political events the first ones were called national dialogue and took place in my father's house it was always packed. it in michelle was forty hundreds came to debate about anything that
was on their mind they wanted to talk about syria just a. little bit of it. you could feel how great the longing was to be involved and bring about change at long last. meeting let me tell fals. six months off to he entered office the young president appeared for the first time in public with his wife from england. it was a missed serene let's say in the first few months because we heard about this lady coming from london beautiful very fashionable. not only beautiful she was clever sentence very good studies in london she was working in a major bank etc. to leave all this to go to syria. why she did that what was behind it who was she.
she contributed to this protester profile greatly because she was you know obviously fluent in english british accent or grew up in the west very elegant cosmopolitan woman who was determined to play a different type. role as first lady of syria then her mother in law that was very much behind the scenes you know they both were young at the time. so she very much contributed to this image that bashar and his wife would take syria in a different direction. i met her and she said to me what do i need to do to be a good first lady and i said i don't know but it was very fashionable time laura bush had been going around the middle east and. africa as well running first ladies
conferences their wives of political leaders. and she said i'd like to be a first lady and do what i have to do i said we have to have a program have to have some to work for you have a budget you have to set up an office and you do things and you know when you come and do it for me that's a choice you want to study that's why i got involved. as not a last i didn't just want to be a good class lady she also wanted to be a first lady who was accepted in the west it wasn't long before she started organizing conferences but the first ladies from neighboring countries something which had been on i don't thin damascus. i'm going away the first i would see that. and this is huge great palace and i had to come in and walk through the great marble holes and past fountains and go and
there's a tiny room in the corner where she sat and i was in there and i thought there's nobody else in the place so completely empty palace above me. and me and i wanted a cup of coffee and it took forever to get a cup of coffee but you know that's the way it is. there was a there are suspicion from the government people who are keeping their eye on the make sure should get out of control and they get there around me to make sure i didn't encourage it to get out of control so there were there was sort of a slight feeling of being watched and. i saw her last times and we discussed ways of creating a first he's always. had vision was a combination of doing good things in syria she was worried about poverty she was worried about people who had been left behind by the progress and she wanted to be seen to be a good person that's what she did you can make use of
a machine i want to go to is round syria seeing people discussing it is a bit like as a royal tour. i think. she was a good talent at the time she's clearly not a good look back at the time she was vacant very cooperative very helpful very pleasant say paid on time probably. the investment paid off as an aside soon mastered her role at the perfect fast lady two years after the start of his presidency she accompanied bash on assad to her hometown london it was his last official visit to britain it was a success for the couple that included meeting with the prime minister and the queen. president of syria this is outside.
the. south is a very busy time yeah one. that we have a very full review of the visit of the man usually the way i did. but. if you. asked me was received like a star tyrone school she had made something of herself she was now a first lady beautiful and rich. one hundred is. their behavior clearly signaled where similar to europe it's always pleasant for europe to have heads of state like that who think alike and even. the idea was people who come across like us who like the same things as we do could also share our political views and rights and not. the political interest of the
west in collaborating with bashar assad was however based on fear. the fear of islam is terrorism. we condemn. anybody who's engaged in terrorist activity of any sort at all wherever in the world. i do however believe it's important to engage with syria because syria is going to be an important part of building a peaceful and stable future in the middle east and i mean if the three most wanted hope for the i don't know how i will feel. well if you know what as for the issue of terrorism syria is known for its fight against terrorism for the last decades and not just for the last few years have autumn on hope and they want to signal to europe we are a very good partner for you he expressed that explicitly in the fight against terrorism. that was an issue where assad could associate closely with the west and
say you are natural partner in the region is right here he wanted to motivate europe to come towards him. but they before they leave he told me that his photo it says a lot about the communication of the regime because. who run this photo on the first page of the magazine was forbidden in syria because the regime didn't want syrians to see the president i guess it's very it's very interesting that was an image let's say for abroad that was for europe but for syria. the president should
not be. human or a father. or someone nice to say. i think he did want some level of political reform and the big yeah but i think he realized and he was advised and he accepted the view that this could cause chaos that could cause instability and chaos can overthrow the regime. while they are sides presented themselves in london as the bringers of hope for the middle east political change back home in syria was being put down by the government the regime had a new face but it was the same brutality there were no photographs or films capturing this. fear that his family his clan could lose power he had only important opposition leaders including riad saif arrested by the secret
service who they had done was to meet up and debate. it can it. be addictive i was shocked and afraid that they kill him at the same time his arrest meant that it was over as mike. gone was the hope of freedom and democracy. and. everything we had dreamed of was over that the. riyadh saif was sentenced to five years in prison for subversive activities the west reacted with a note of protest. i wouldn't believe everyone was briefed by the foreign ministries that this was a repressive regime that there were massive human rights violations and the prisons were full of political prisoners who were coming under. and then you went there and it was lovely. damascus is a beautiful city with
a lovely location near mt. the old town is delightful and the restaurants were full . yeah. we asked where is their repression. and that why is everything so bad. so. sad appeared in public as a pleasant person you enjoyed watching and listening to it was a pleasant young man with a western background that he didn't have the as a rule or. he came across as relaxed and as likable. he didn't come across as the head of a repressive regime. and she emphasized the likeable impression her husband made. thank.
you know. when he went to the opera with his wife people clapped one thousand one hundred by phone all. one hundred you got the impression they loved him. we diplomats allowed ourselves to be seduced. by anyone who wanted to know about bashar al assad's human rights violations didn't know about them it was totally clear that he was a dictator and that the regime hadn't changed there were enough reports about what was going on behind the scenes for anyone who wanted to see what was happening. with. the swiss not a diplomat the e.u. representatives also knew that you had to choose do we need assad for our own interests is it really important to talk about the conditions in the prisons all the time or can we ignore that for now and talk about trade deals and the opening
of the syrian markets which after placing. of could. i can remember one time where she swept me away along with others it was during a female entrepreneurs convention in damascus schools. she made the opening speech that contained the ideas that had been expressed in london paris and brussels about the need to create open markets about promoting competition to achieve affluence for the population a great speech one of our. own government i just thought this is the woman who worked as a finance analyst don't you bank the j.p. morgan it was great i don't know which journalist it was who called her the lady di of the orient. or the division of.
public and she was good at public relations this comparison was apt. on these and. she was a darling. in. march two thousand and three the united states invaded iraq under the pretext that the iraqi dictator saddam hussein had weapons of mass destruction president bush wanted to topple him as the direct neighbor of iraq the syrian regime felt threatened assad feared it could be in the americans interest to so end the assad era in syria. bashar al assad was familiar with the west's fear of islam as terrorism he knew that for as long as this threat existed he would be needed as a partner in the fight against the terrorists and he the dictator would always be
the lesser of the two evils be a year later at madrid central station almost two hundred people died in what was the biggest islamist terrorist attack in europe to date the syrian president and his wife expressed their condolences. this is an interesting moment two thousand and four it's the railway station three at the same time where they went to the station to put a counter. to. a thought for the victims of terrorism of the very same time. the assad regime was supporting the jihadist where working in iraq. and later i mean it was our time then what is today you know it's. so it's it's a very interesting. photo because it says. that bashar was offering to the west
at something like i can protect you from terrorists it's me or so or isn't. what you prefer the alternative to me is these people you want them. it's a very good insurance so keeping power is to say ok i can leave but you will have these people this do you love. that many european leaders. believed or accepted but it was neglecting twenty two million syrians. assman meanwhile established a whole network of seemingly independent organizations for women's rights education and young people this commitment and her international admiration but she was a part of the regime part of the lie. why we don't think the people who are not
critical of the not complaining about the government and complaining about service haven't been about economic crisis people here complain as much as they do anywhere else and whilst that that's not true i think what we're trying to and i know what we're trying to achieve ensure that they're not just complaining but they are part of the solution. so she had their fingers dream ambition but on the same moment the prisms were still the same the torture was to listening. openness were arrested. or detained sometimes without even trying at such etc so the regime. change that much but she had this public image maybe that was there you could hide the rest. under bashar al assad through the syrian regime and soon became as dark and into
maine as it had ever been it wasn't just political prisoners who were in danger but also anyone who was close to them who loved them that was the strategy of the secret service. that we can have that debate they constantly threatened my father and told him to his face that he had already lost one son. but that he still had a daughter and another son whom he could lose very easily. it's unbelievable. had. we lived in a police state a dictatorship we were worth nothing. they had control over our lives there was no law we could call upon to protect us because we didn't even have the right to dissent. and life is still like that in syria to this day he had.
been doing this photo can and do it the people are tortured in syria's torture cellars and its prisons until they say there's no other god but bashar that's the sentence the secret service police want to hear it's a god like status they also give a shot too many of them have a tattoo of his portrait on their body and he's their god they work for him and that's their reality. doesn't reality it is if you're going to get it. in february two thousand and five the lebanese prime minister rafiq hariri was
killed by a bone. the u.n. investigators found clues suggesting the assassins had come from damascus it was said assad had boarded the assassination evidence was never found but international outrage was great and assad fell. out of favor. two months after harry of the assassination of the pope of fear and jumper the second the vatican has a special foreign policy and the federal you can't say no to anyone who is coming to fill and so they went. nobody wants to hold the show nobody wants to receive him nobody wants to talk with . you.
on this photo you realize exactly the tool of the chicken talk to the queen of spain and then on another photo of cherie blair because she is a nice person and it's difficult for sharon there or to the green of spain or other to reject her or something so here you realize her function maybe in the regime is to do this you know to to present the face of and of the country in a nice way and to. and to be a tool of foreign policy because if bashar was alone on the fiddle i'm not sure people would really talk to him. but with us as the. one eon later the e.u. wanted to set up an independent center for human rights in damascus without the
involvement of the regime. and. we had initiated a project with the aim of giving the interested audience in syria journalists and lawyers an insight into the large number of un conventions syria had signed regarding refugees human rights and so on who will be uncertain and who will be. syrian human rights lawyer and while boonie paid a high price for this idea. a shot in the e.u. put me in charge of this institution because i was very well known in syria as a human rights lawyer and i had defended political prisoners under very difficult conditions since the one nine hundred ninety s. . a large office was rented on behalf of the e.u. . they got computers and paid for all the equipment.
twenty seven e.u. representatives came to the opening including twelve ambassadors. enough and in fact when in retrospect you ask yourself what the e.u. is thinking they opened a human rights center with me at the helm without really securing that politically . that's right you know how the state works would have done that differently it didn't work that's probably why they had the courage to open such a center i was at the opening people gave pretty little speeches and after a week the center was closed again. the secret service men attacked me outside of my house and took me with them. in the. night took me to an interrogation center but i wasn't tortured but they beat me. they blindfolded me so i couldn't see
who was beating me so i wouldn't recognize them on the second day i was taken to prison and then i was put on trial. before i was summoned to the foreign office and i was accused of interfering in syrian internal affairs. in order for i was to hold the project immediately which i did i narrowly avoided becoming a person non grata. i was sentenced to five years. it was accused of conspiracy and founding an international organization that. the european parliament demanded the syrian authorities immediately release and
while boonie and other political activists and ensure they were not abused one in jail. need however to serve all five years of his sentence he was beaten abused and even threatened with death. the e.u. then pursued other avenues and policies it centered on the association agreement with syria to tie the country to europe economically because they needed bashar assad in the region the un sonia nominee india your own. european politicians started visiting damascus again the visitors might have felt like many other diplomats they knew about the human rights violations but they didn't see them the germans signed a financial agreement with syria in two thousand and eight alone twenty six million
euros were agreed for development projects. for much chancellor gerhard schroeder travelled to economic tools he accepted an honorary doctorate and met the president . after work the president took photos for the family album a regular couple with three children the assads from next door. he's not a president and home at home he is a husband and he's a friend and he's a father. and he doesn't allow the official or his official responsibilities to intrude into that time ever so his hands on his support of his a lot of fun. and especially with the kids love having him around is very important to realize that these people are human sometimes people tell me that this photo is too nice because you see him as a human being and he's
a monster and i say no he's not a monster he's a human being acting like a monster and it's very important that we keep this in mind because. it would make them comfortable it would make them go to court one day. in two thousand and nine a french television team accompanied the assads on their way to the opera in damascus. it is very secure but you. can open the window. so. there's no if you cannot be secure through bodyguards you can secure through been through having secured the fighting. of course there was a risk but i don't like it better that's what makes me more confident more open with the people more the contact with them in my work.
when jumana as father riyad saif was released from jail after five years he did not remain silent he continued his criticism of the regime and the sands and again he was persecuted. jambi. steady who i remember a night in february it was valentine's day and we had guests life be more. of a few shitty little fish they came to our house at three in the morning. but also we call these people back because they only come at night. men were huge very muscular i mean they had weapons and wore masks. they didn't just come to us they came to my brother my cousins everyone in our family have been on me. they said
they were looking for my father they dragged everyone out of their homes out into the cold and pajamas she live. they took us to the worst thing was the children witnessed how these masked men with their guns came to our house and threatened us all to go on hardly ever to call willie's law we got a message if you talk about these arrests in any way expect punishment might be to what i want this is the for them it was a terrible time for my family. and if sian like felon can it when they did everything they could to destroy us and break my father and. it's the last photo i did of them a few months later it was. the revolution things changed in syria.
in march two thousand and eleven the arab spring reached syria the people started loudly voicing their anger and their longing for freedom of the regime and about. reacted with what he did best violence arrests torture and murder when the president addressed parliament weeks later the images eerily resembled those of his first speech eleven as earlier. when the hope of so many rested on him now he was a man spouting empty words he spoke of a conspiracy of foreign enemies to the applause from his hired at myra's. that you believe you have to. the rebellion turned into a war everyone who turned against assad was labeled a terrorist by the regime the president had syrian towns and cities and the syrian
people his people beyond. the united nations estimate that more than four hundred thousand people have died in this war including many children one time my daughter asked my husband what do you do we know you go to the office we see on t.v. sometimes. what is it you do and he said i try and help people now if you want to ask what does your father do she says she says to everybody my father helps people in syria. almost half of all syrians men women and children had to flee their homes because of the war. nobody really knows how many are still in syria's prisons how many have disappeared how many have been tortured to death i witness is speak of tens of thousands.
apart from a few appearances in public as ma assad has long disappeared from the real world she's become an actress in the videos and photographs issued by the syrian regime a first lady of propaganda how do they call them over the line if you ask most standing by her man you know she is all in she believes and what the syrian regime is doing and believes and those. projection that they are saving syria that they are saving a way of life and so it appears that you know she will stay you know in damascus and stay with him to the end one way or another jumana saif family now lives in berlin and is safe her father survived the many years in syrian prisons he continues to fight for a free syria from exile a syria without a son. and i'm up for peace with the assads and
his family is completely unimaginable to me he and his people are responsible for terrible crimes committed to people who just wanted their freedom. yes situation now is that assad will say one day the war is over i've won and the west has to think about whether it is really prepared to rehabilitate assad i think the image of this presidential couple will help the west to do that because assad is the way he is and he appears with his wife as he does the chances great that politicians will say great have your refugees back and the millions as well so assad can rebuild his country and then we hope the syrians will come to terms with that but as long as he's in power most syrians won't return because their lives are at risk. i'd love to know what really
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