The Guardian has obtained copies of a cache of emails from the personal accounts of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma, that show him mocking proposed reforms, taking advice from Iran and emailing iTunes songs to her. Many of Asma al-Assad’s own emails are about shopping for items ranging from chandeliers to a £6,257 table from West Sussex to jewelry made by a small Paris workshop. The emails offer a highly unflattering window on Syria’s leader and First Lady, who comes across as a modern day Marie Antoinette, purchasing a new chocolate fondue set while Syrians in cities besieged by government tanks are killed when they venture out to forage for food.
The emails were obtained from an unnamed “young government worker” who obtained the passwords to two email accounts, firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com, reportedly the personal accounts of Assad and his wife. Activists monitored the emails for nine months. According to the Guardian, three months after the Syrian uprising began in the southern city of Dera’a, “two Syrian professionals in a Gulf state” who had become active in the opposition movement learned of the email accounts and passwords. Until February, when a “threatening email in Arabic was sent to the Sam email address,” the activists read every email that appeared from both accounts. Those from the Sam account were almost immediately erased, a suggestion that the account’s owner was wary of it being hacked.
Al-Shabha is a company based in Dubai with a registered office in London that is “a key conduit for Syrian government business and private purchases of Mrs Assad.”
In the emails from the Sam account, Assad ridiculed the reform — “rubbish laws of parties, elections, media” — he had announced to end the crisis. The emails show him receiving advice from Hussein Mortada, an “influential Lebanese businessman with strong connections to Iran”; one piece of advice was that the regime to take control of public squares between 3pm and 9pm, to deny protesters the opportunity to gather there. Assad was also able to get around “extensive US sanctions against him by using a third party with a US address” to download music and apps from iTunes. He apparently sent a YouTube video of a song by US country singer Blake Sheldon “God Gave Me You” to his wife, as well as a video clip from America’s Got Talent of “the best illusion of all time,” a man appearing to saw another man in half.
A link sent to an aide includes a link to a YouTube video that includes “a crude re-enactment of the siege of Homs using toys and biscuits.”
While noting that it is possible that some of the emails are fakes, the Guardian cites several pieces of evidence to suggest their authenticity. Ten people whose emails appear in the cache of 3,000 emails have been contacted; some emails, including some from Asma al-Assad’s brothers, contain personal details. Due to “the nature of the Assad regime’s brutal crackdown on the Syrian people,” the Guardian says that it believes that “the more detailed picture of the workings of Assad’s inner circle that emerges from the mails, and the extent to which he and his wife have managed to sustain their luxurious lifestyle, are also of public interest.”
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Photo by Ricardo Stuckert