ritain's Guardian newspaper says it has obtained 3,000 emails from accounts used by Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife, Asma. The missives, sent between June 2011 and February 2012, paint a picture of a ruling family "remarkably insulated from the mounting crisis and continuing to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle," buying high-priced goods online, trading entertaining video clips, and downloading music from iTunes. The Syrian government denies the emails — in which the pair uses pseudonyms (Assad is "Sam;" Asma is "AK") — are from the Assads' personal accounts, but The Guardian says it has confirmed their authenticity. Here are six of the more curious tidbits mined from the notes, which The Guardian says were first intercepted by an opposition group:
1. The Assads listened to country music as Homs burned
The day after Assad's military began its deadly shelling of rebel neighborhoods in the city of Homs, the embattled dictator sent his wife a video of country crooner Blake Shelton's song "God Gave Me You."
2. Asma is "an internet shopaholic"
"While the country erupted" around her, Assad's U.K.-born wife, went online to buy diamond and onyx necklaces, a Ming Luce vase, and $15,000 worth of candlesticks, tables, and chandeliers.
3. The president's friends in Iran are coaching him
Before a big speech in December 2011, a media consultant sent Assad a memo based on advice from supporters, including the Iranian ambassador's political adviser. The document urged Assad to use "powerful and violent" language, express gratitude for support from "friendly states," and brag about his military's capabilities to convince the public he could fight off the rebels.
4. Friends abroad say: Come stay with us!
A daughter of Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, the emir of Qatar, recently urged Asma to convince her husband to avoid being killed by fleeing Syria, and to "re-start a normal life," suggesting that Doha is a good place for exiled leaders.
5. President Assad sidestepped sanctions — to get iTunes downloads
Assad used a third party with an address in the U.S. to get around Washington's sanctions so he could get music and apps from Apple's iTunes. His purchases reportedly included the iPad game Real Racing 2, and tunes by singer Chris Brown.
6. The Assads and their friends aren't totally out of touch
Asma sent a friend a note about a pair of $4,000 Christian Louboutin heels. The reply: "I don't think they're going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately."
Sources: Guardian (2), Foreign Policy, NPR
THE WEEK'S AUDIOPHILE PODCASTS: LISTEN SMARTER
- 31 TV shows to watch in 2014
- 14 wonderful words with no English equivalent
- Why atheism doesn't have the upper hand over religion
- He said he was leaving. She ignored him.
- Why Easter is so important to Christians
- What would a U.S.-Russia war look like?
- Why would a young person today be religious?
- If a nuclear bomb exploded in downtown Washington, what should you do?
- There's a number of reasons the grammar of this headline could infuriate you
- How Captain America won over China
Subscribe to the Week