Sunday 16 April 2017

Syrian First Lady Asma Al-Assad Faces Calls To Be Stripped Of her UK Citizenship

Asma Al-Assad

Asma al-Assad, the Syrian president’s British-born wife, is facing calls to be stripped of her UK citizenship after she was accused of propping up his propaganda operation.

Mrs Assad, a former investment banker who married Assad in 2000, has at least three official social media accounts under her name, which are used to praise the Syrian regime's "martyrs" and attack the West.

The first lady is followed by more than 500,000 followers on Instagram, Facebook and Telegram.

Last weekend an Instagram account under her name was used to respond to President Donald Trump's air strikes against a Syrian air base, which came in response to a chemical weapons attack by her husband's regime.

The post said: "The presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic affirms that what America has done is an irresponsible act that only reflects a short-sightedness, a narrow horizon, a political and military blindness to reality and a naive pursuit of a frenzied false propaganda campaign."

Her husband has also accused the US of fabricating the chemical attack to justify a military strike, even as British investigators confirmed the use of toxic sarin gas.

Mrs Assad was born to Syrian parents in London and educated at Queens College, a private girls school, and Kings College London, where she graduated with a degree in computer science in 1996.

She is subject to European Union sanctions that make it illegal to render her economic assistance and ban her from travelling in the European Union with the exception of the UK, because she holds British nationality.

Removing her UK citizenship is unlikely to be rejected as illegal, because she is understood to be British-Syrian dual national.

Asma Al-Assad

Amber Rudd, the Home Secretary, has the powers to do so under the British Nationality Act if she decides that such a move would be "conducive to the public good".

The Liberal Democrats will send an official letter to the Home Office today, calling for her citizenship to be revoked.

The letter, which has been seen by The Telegraph, states: "If Asma continues defending the Assad regime’s murderous actions, the onus will be on the UK Government to deprive her of her citizenship or demonstrate that her actions are not seriously prejudicial to the vital interests of the United Kingdom."

The party is also calling for a debate in the House of Commons next week, as MPs return to Parliament after the Easter recess.

Tom Brake, the party's foreign affairs spokesman, said: "Boris Johnson has urged other countries to do more about Syria, but the British Government could say to Asma al-Assad, 'Either stop using your position to defend barbaric acts or be stripped of your citizenship'."

Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative MP who sits on the Commons foreign affairs committee, told the Sunday Times: "The time has come where we go after [President] Assad in every which way, including people like Mrs Assad, who is very much part of the propaganda machine that is committing war crimes."

Speaking in October 2016, Mrs Assad disclosed that she had turned down offers of financial security and safety for her children if she fled the war-torn country.

In her first television interview in eight years, the 41 year-old mother of three also hit out at the West for what she called double standards in coverage of the war, saying media coverage of child casualties differed “depending on the loyalties of their parents”.

Speaking in English, Mrs Assad said she used her position as first lady to organise assistance for displaced people, wounded Syrian army soldiers, and the families of “martyrs” who have died in the war.

A Home Office spokesman said: "The Government takes its duty to protect the British public exceptionally seriously.

"We cannot discuss individual cases, but the Home Secretary can deprive individuals of their citizenship where it is conducive to the public good to do so."



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