European Union foreign ministers issued a travel ban and assets freeze on Asma al-Assad, the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The sanctions list already included her husband and other Syrian officials; the EU’s travel ban also extends to Assad’s family, with sanctions now placed onáhis mother, sister and sister-in-law.
Meanwhile, Kofi Annan, special envoy to the United Nations and Arab League, is en route to Moscow and Beijing to discuss the crisis and calls for an immediate end to the violence, which has gone on for over a year and led to the deaths of an estimated 8,000 to 9,000. Russia and China have twice vetoed UN Security Council resolutions to demand that Assad step down as the first phase of transferring political power.
The EU’s imposing a “limited expansion of commercial sanctions” is another attempt to use economic pressure to end the conflict. Previously, the EU has called for an embargo on oil imports from Syria as well as sanctions against the country’s central bank, other companies and state institutions.
36-year-old Asma al-Assad had lived most of her life in England prior to her marriage to Assad in 2000. She had worked as an investment banker; the UK Border Agency has confirmed that she holds a British passport and, despite the EU travel ban, she “cannot be refused entry to the UK,” says the BBC. But the travel ban, and the revelation from a leaked email cache that Asma al-Assad has been occupied with shopping for luxury goods as thousands have been killed, injured and suffering under siege by the Syrian army, have done away with previous notions of her as a liberalizing force on her husband.
Activists report that at least 40 people were killed across Syria on Thursday, with most in the provinces of Idlib and Homs. Ten civilians, including two women and three children, were killed on a bus that was shot at as they attempted to flee to Turkey. Currently there are some 17,000 Syrian refugees in Turkey and an estimated 1,000 arriving every day via the 500-mile border the country shares with Syria. The Guardian quoted Turkey’s foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu in Brussels:
“I compare Homs with Sarajevo [in the 1990s]. No one can justify attacking urban areas indiscriminately. Now they are attacking urban areas with heavy weapons. We have to act quickly ů This massacre must be stopped.”
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Photo by Ammar Abd Rabbo