Syria’s first lady has claimed she has been given multiple offers to flee the war-ravaged country with her children but has refused them all saying they were ploys to bring down her husband.
British-born Asma Al-Assad, wife of Syrian president Bashar Al-Assad, has given an interview with broadcaster Russia24, which is due to be aired later today.
It is the first time the 41-year-old has spoke with international media since Syria’s revolt erupted in 2011, with demands for her husband to be ousted from office.
But despite the danger she faces staying in the country, Al-Assad said she would not be leaving Syria.
She explained: ‘I never thought of being anywhere else at all… Yes, I was offered the opportunity to leave Syria or rather to run from Syria.
‘These offers included guarantees of safety and protection for my children, and even financial security.
‘It doesn’t take a genuis to know what these people were really after. It was never about my wellbeing or my children.
‘It was a deliberate attempt to shatter people’s confidence in their president.’
Mrs Al-Assad’s marriage to Mr Al-Assad was announced by state media six months after he assumed the presidency in July 2000 following the death of his father Hafez.
The former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and was seen as the modern side of the Assad dynasty.
She did not appear much in public in the first few years of the uprising, but over the past two years has been a lot more active.
The mother-of-three has stood at her husband’s side in his rare public appearances, posing for selfies with supporters in pictures posted to the presidency’s Instagram account.
But with the death toll in Syria’s conflict now at least 300,000 and pictures emerging of her smiling beside children, athletes and graduates in shared images the United States has denounced the account as ‘a despicable PR stunt.’
Mrs Al-Assad’s interview comes as Russia says ‘goodwill’ is behind its decision to announce a temporary ceasefire over Aleppo – a day after dozens of civilians were killed in a wave of deadly airstrikes.
The Kremlin said it had stopped bombing the war-ravaged Syrian city this morning ahead of plans for an eight-hour truce on Thursday.
The decision was a ‘manifestation of goodwill’, according to Dmitry Peskov, the spokesman for Russian president Vladimir Putin.
Once Syria’s thriving commercial hub, Aleppo has been ravaged by bombing raids and intensifying clashes as President al-Assad’s forces fight to capture rebel-held parts of the city.
Russian air support for the onslaught – which has destroyed hospitals and other civilian infrastructure – has spurred accusations of potential war crimes and threats of punitive sanctions.