Shop 'til your people drop
Syrian first lady Asma Assad spent more than 270,000 British pounds ($420,000) on chandeliers, carpets, sofas, tables and more last March, according to WikiLeaks • International Red Cross formally declares civil war status in Syria, meaning international humanitarian law now applies throughout the country.
While her husband has been busy slaughtering his own people, Asma Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has kept busy with extravagant online shopping sprees in which she has spent more than 270,000 British pounds ($420,000) on chandeliers, carpets, sofas, tables and more.
According to recently released WikiLeaks documents published by The Mail on Sunday, Syria's first lady ordered the items from the high-end London-based DN Designs store. She purchased 130 items from the shop, including 11 luxury sofas for a total of 20,000 pounds ($31,000), a table costing 10,000 pounds ($15,000), and a carpet for 11,000 pounds ($17,000). The details of Asma Assad's shopping spree have emerged on the heels of images published in late June of her and her husband playing badminton together.
Before the outbreak of violent protests in Syria, Asma Assad was celebrated as one of the more glamorous first ladies in the region. For many, her youth and the fact that she was born and educated in Britain were reason to hope that Syria was headed toward a more open society and democratization.
Since the outbreak of violence, however, Asma Assad's darker side has been revealed. Her shopping spree took place last March, according to WikiLeaks, one year after the civil unrest began and after thousands of Syrians had already been killed. Despite the reports of ever-mounting casualties, the first lady remained focused on redecorating her and her husband's summer palace. According to The Mail on Sunday, she personally supervised the renovations to the palace, in the coastal city of Latakia.
The International Red Cross, meanwhile, formally declared on Sunday that the conflict in Syria had crossed the threshold to becoming a civil war. The decision means that international humanitarian law now applies throughout the country and that potential war crimes prosecutions are applicable.
Also known as the rules of war, humanitarian law grants all parties in a conflict the right to use appropriate force to achieve their aims. The Geneva-based group's assessment is an important reference for determining how much and what type of force can be used, and it can form the basis for war crimes prosecutions, especially if civilians are attacked or detained enemies are abused or killed.
"We are now talking about a non-international armed conflict in the country," ICRC spokesman Hicham Hassan said.
War crimes prosecutions would have been possible even without the Red Cross statement. But Sunday's pronouncement adds weight to any prosecution argument that Syria is in a state of war, a prerequisite for a war crimes case.
Previously, the Red Cross committee had restricted its assessment of the scope of the conflict to the hotspots of Idlib, Homs and Hama. But Hassan said the organization concluded that the violence was widening.
"Hostilities have spread to other areas of the country," Hassan said. "International humanitarian law applies to all areas where hostilities are taking place."
Arab media outlets reported that the Syrian army on Sunday had continued its assault on opposition strongholds throughout the country, killing 50 people. According to the reports, large forces accompanied by tanks and other armored vehicles raided the town of Rastan and bombarded homes in the area.
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