Continued from page 1

“Du chic, du chic et encore du chic,” gushed France’s Elle magazine in 2008, which went on to name her the world’s most stylish woman. In 2009, Britain’s top-selling tabloid The Sun introduced its readers to the “sexy Brit” who was “bringing Syria in from the cold.”

One profile in particular, a deluxe spread in Vogue magazine, has come back to haunt her. Published only a month before the start of Syria’s crackdown, the article rehashed the main staples of the Asma legend: Her “killer IQ”; her charity work; and the notion that, like Disney’s Princess Jasmine, Asma liked to slip out into the country incognito to meet her people.

But the article — which has since been pulled from Vogue’s website — has been ridiculed as sinister in retrospect.

The Assad household, the article says, is run on “wildly democratic principles” and is equipped with a blackboard which tracks when anyone raises their voice. In the article, Bashar explains why he studied opthamology as his chosen field of medicine. The reason, he says, is “there is very little blood.”

Asma has been mostly out of sight in the year since her husband’s regime came under fire. Although she has been largely silent, she appears to be standing by her man.

She showed up briefly at a pro-regime rally in January, smiling with her children as her husband said the “conspiracy” against Syria was in its final stage. On Feb. 26, dressed in a conservative black dress, she accompanied her husband to a polling station during a referendum on a new constitution..

In one of the emails obtained by the Guardian, she describes herself as “the real dictator” in the family, a tacit acknowledgment that her husband is seen in the wider world as a despot leading a suffocating regime.

The emails portray Asma as an enthusiastic online shopper. One of the emails published by the Guardian — apparently sent as Syrian forces were preparing their ferocious assault on Homs — appeared to catch her asking a friend what she thought about a pair of 6-inch Christian Louboutin heels, laden with crystals.

“I don’t think they’re going 2 b useful any time soon unfortunately,” the unidentified friend replies.

The Associated Press has not been able to obtain any of the emails or independently confirm their contents.

It’s not just Asma’s English princess image that’s been wrecked by the emails; her fairy tale marriage has also come under scrutiny. Last week, The Telegraph in London published a photograph apparently sent to her husband’s account of a nearly naked woman pressing her hands against a wall. The woman’s identity is not known, but the paper said it wasn’t his wife.

AP writers Bassem Mroue in Beirut, Raphael Satter in London, Don Melvin in Brussels and John Heilprin in Geneva contributed to this report.