I was duped into writing Asma al-Assad profile, says Vogue writer Joan Juliet Buck

 

The writer of a flattering Vogue profile of Syria's first lady, Asma al-Assad, has published an extraordinary mea culpa detailing how the article came to be written. Joan Juliet Buck, whose article, "A Rose in the Desert", appeared in March last year, admits she "should have said no" to the commission.

She claims that when she flew to Damascus to interview Assad, "I didn't know I was going to meet a murderer". Both she and the fashion magazine faced huge criticism for publishing the article – which called British-born Mrs Assad, pictured, "glamorous, young, and very chic" – at the height of the Arab Spring, when Syria's human rights abuses were already causing international outrage.

Buck claims, however, that media handlers from the London PR agency Brown Lloyd James prevented her from carrying out proper research. She therefore had no way of knowing that Syria's "meek" and "computer-loving" dictator was the sort of ruler who would "kill more of his own people than his father had and torture tens of thousands more, many of them children". She duly turned in a rose-tinted article that sparked viral outrage and was deleted from Vogue's website in May last year.

In December, Buck was fired as one of Vogue's contributing editors, leaving her free to discuss the controversy. Her account of how the profile of Mrs Assad came about was printed by Newsweek yesterday. Among other things, it alleges that the Syrian government hacked into her laptop and issued her with a tapped mobile phone during her time in Damascus.

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