As Syria's crackdown continues--with Syrian security forces releasing 300 people detained in the coastal city of Banias today even as army tanks shelled the central city of Homs--the British press is tackling an interesting question: Where is Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's wife, Asma?
On Tuesday, The Telegraph quoted a "high-ranking Arab diplomatic source" as saying Syria's British-born first lady had fled, "under conditions of immense secrecy," to London and was now living with her three children in a "safe house" surrounded by security guards. The source said Mrs. Assad's location hadn't been released because it would be a "huge embarrassment to the British." The paper noted that Mrs. Assad hasn't been seen in public since the beginning of the Arab Spring.
The thin reports have sent reporters scrambling to the large "pebble-dash terraced house" in North Acton, West London where Mrs. Assad grew up. The Telegraph reported no sign of the family on Monday, with "three day-old post stacked against the front door." Neighbors told the paper that they hadn't seen Mrs. Assad's parents--a cardiologist and diplomat--for several days. The Daily Mail found no answer at the door on Monday night but did spot a Mercedes with diplomatic plates parked outside the home. The First Post didn't venture out to Acton but did indulge in speculation, wondering whether Mrs. Assad "walked out in disgust or whether she is holing up here until the storm passes." Mrs. Assad married Bashar al-Assad, an eye doctor by training, in 2000, the same year he succeeded his father as Syria's president.