The wives of UN ambassadors have taken to the Internet to urge Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, to “publicly call for peace” and stop her husband’s violent bloodshed.
Huberta von Voss-Wittig, the wife of Germany's UN ambassador Peter Wittig, and Sheila Lyall Grant, the wife of Britain's UN ambassador Mark Lyall Grant, uploaded a video plea onto YouTube on April 16, titled “International Letter & Petition to Asma al-Assad.” An accompanying Change.org petition was released to coincide with the video plea.
The two wives appeal to Asma’s (well-documented) sense of style, pride, and justice in the four-minute video that even includes a clip of Asma telling young students “we should all be able to live in peace, stability, and with our dignities.”
The video plea is more than a little harsh—“some women care for style and some women care for their people, some women struggle for their image, and some women struggle for survival”—juxtaposing a well coiffed Assad, with scenes from war-torn Syria, including dying children.
“What happened to you, Asma?” asks the narrator in the slightly NSFW (for violence) and tearful video.
The Change.org petition doesn’t have a gentler touch, reiterating the video plea’s words in asking Asma to stop being a bystander and instead, to take action and responsibility for what is happening in her country.
“It is your duty to prevent the breakout of civil war as a woman, as a wife and as a mother of young children yourself. Imagine it were your children in danger, would you speak out then?
You have waited too long already, but there is still time to change the course of Syrian history. Please, publicly call for peace in Syria.”
At press time, the petition had collected 8,000 signatures, while the video has been viewed more than 45,000 times. The video plea has also started a robust debate in the comments, with many unconvinced that Asma could actually do anything to sway her husband.
“If he is willing to murder all these innocent people then he is also probably able to murder a wife who he deems as being against him,” wrote RebeccaHoyt on YouTube. “[Sh]e could be just as scared for her life and the lives of her family as the people in Homs.”
Some YouTubers, feeding off the vibes in the video plea, have taken to villifying Asma:
“Asma, your husband is a barbarian, wrote nonniebri, who then went on to question Asma’s education and call her “the UGLIEST woman I have ever seen in my life” for not standing up to her husband.
Others took issue with the firm direction of the video.
“I think a polite plea would have worked better than an attack,” commented kyrat, who then theorized maybe Asma “has been urging her husband to make changes ...we do not know what happens behind closed doors.”
"This started as a private, personal initiative from Huberta and me—independent of the UN or our governments,” said Lyall Grant, wife of Britain's UN ambassador, Mark Lyall Grant.
“We only launched it this morning and since then it's grown exponentially, which shows how women all over the world, from all walks of life, have supported this message.''
Photo by Freedom House