Open the papers every day, and you’re met with a new and distressing picture of one of the most war-torn countries in the world, Syria. Today, for example, the besieged city of Aleppo is being randomly shelled and just last weekend, the U.N. said around 200,000 had already fled the city of three million. All of which made last March’s profile of Syrian first lady Asma Al-Assad staggeringly incongruous. Entitled, A Rose in the Desert, it was gushing, sycophantic and, in hindsight, erroneous piece. It described Syria as one of the safest countries in the Middle East and the Al-Assad’s as a ‘wildly democratic’ family.
For those not in the know, former banker Asma al-Assad is the couture-loving, British-born wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad (both pictured above), a man whose regime has killed over 20,000 civilians since the article ran last year. Yes it was a year ago, but in 2011 the political situation in Syria last year was far from peaceful. All of which begs the question: why did US Vogue run the piece?
This morning, a new twist in the puzzle emerged. Last December the article’s author, former French Vogue editor Joan Juliet Buck, was fired from the magazine. As far as we know, there was no link between the article and her unemployment, but it did allow her to speak openly about why the piece ran in the first place. In a piece in the Times this morning, she finally admitted that she felt coerced into writing the piece because she wasn’t fully briefed about the Syrian regime, and had she known: ‘she should have said no’ to the commission. What’s more, she had no idea what she was letting herself in for because the PR agency deployed to deal with their press ‘prevented’ her from carrying out proper research and was in fact duped by all parties into running the piece.
US Vogue took the article down from their website a few months later following viral outrage. It was the right thing to do, but still it does make you wonder: how much of what we read is actually true that US Vogue managed to make such a blunder.