Joan Smith: Let's keep the ambassadors' wives out of it

These women are now in the awkward position of trading on their husbands

Share

Being the wife of a dictator is, I imagine, pretty much like being married to a mafia boss. Everyone's a bit scared of you, wondering what you might say to your husband, but I doubt whether you have a great deal of power. Then there's the thing you don't talk about, all the nastiness that went on in Libya last year and ended so badly for the poor Gaddafis. You don't want to wind up dead or in exile, so why would you listen to a couple of women who seem to think you should stop your husband blowing the country to bits?

"Speak out now, for the sake your people," these strangers implore in a video. Their husbands are senior diplomats at the United Nations and they want to talk to you, Asma al-Assad, woman-to-woman.

"Asma," they plead. "When you kiss your own children goodnight, another mother will find the place next to her empty." It's heart-rending stuff, full of images of dead and injured children – and wrong-headed on so many levels that it's hard to know where to begin.

First, the inhabitants of Syria aren't Mrs Assad's people. She's actually a British citizen and in any case her husband's family imposed itself on the country by force. They've tortured and murdered people for decades but Mrs Assad was relaxed about marrying into the dynasty. "What happened to you, Asma?" is the silliest question in the video, given the absence of any evidence that she cares about human rights or democracy.

And while I'm sure that Sheila Lyall Grant and Huberta von Voss-Wittig mean well, I don't think that the wives of the British and German ambassadors to the UN have (or should expect) any special standing in this matter. Their video wouldn't have got anything like as much attention if their spouses were plumbers, which puts them in the awkward situation of appearing to trade on their husbands' positions. As it happens, I agree with them about the horrors taking place in Syria. But where do we draw the line? Would it be acceptable for an ambassador's spouse to make a video supporting Mitt Romney? Or start a petition demanding the arrest of a democratically-elected politician for alleged war crimes?

But the most annoying aspect of the video is its sentimentality about women. It's in a similar emotional register to Kony2012, the film which deluded millions of people into thinking they could "stop" an African warlord. Its most egregious fault is an assumption that women can just get together and sort these things out.

Everyone has a responsibility to behave humanely, regardless of gender. Until the conflict began, Mrs Assad was quite happy to present herself as the glamorous face of the regime. She may be a wife and mother, but I've no reason to think she's any nicer than her ghastly husband.

www.politicalblonde.com

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

 

General Election 2015: The SNP and an SMC (Salmond-Murdoch Conspiracy)

Matthew Norman
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk