Middle East

Writer tried to stop Vogue piece on Asma Assad

FILE - In this Friday, June 20, 2008 file photo, Syrian President Bashar Assad, right, listens to his wife Asma Assad. (AP Photo/Aijaz Rahi, File)

WASHINGTON: The writer of a controversial Vogue profile of Syria’s First Lady Asma Assad says she urged the magazine not to run the piece as the Arab Spring took hold.

Writing in this week’s Newsweek magazine, Joan Juliet Buck said she submitted her upbeat story on Jan. 14, 2011, the day Tunisia’s leader Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali fled his country.

“‘The Arab Spring is spreading,’ I told Vogue on Jan. 21,” Buck recalled. “‘You might want to hold the piece’ [but] they didn’t think the Arab Spring was going anywhere and the piece was needed for the March ‘Power Issue.’”

When Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak was overthrown on Feb. 11, 2011, and protests flared in Libya, Buck asked to meet Vogue’s managing editor “to discuss how to handle the Assad piece.”

The article appeared on Vogue’s website on Feb. 25 headlined “A Rose in the Desert.”

The piece came under fire almost immediately, with two editors at the Wall Street Journal sniping that “apparently Vogue missed the trend: dictators are out this season.” It was pulled from earlier this year.

Buck revealed her laptop was hacked during her trip to Syria in December 2010 to meet the Assads.

On accepting to write it, she said: “I was curious. That’s why I’d become a writer. Vogue wanted a description of the good-looking first lady of a questionable country. I wanted to see the cradle of civilization.”

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on August 01, 2012, on page 8.




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