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Hacked Assad emails reveal life of luxury amid violence

Over 3,000 documents from the private email accounts belonging to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. The messages, which have been obtained by the Guardian, are said to have been intercepted by members of the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group between June and early February.

world Updated: Mar 16, 2012 00:10 IST

Over 3,000 documents from the private email accounts belonging to Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma. The messages, which have been obtained by the Guardian, are said to have been intercepted by members of the opposition Supreme Council of the Revolution group between June and early February.

The documents, which emerge on the first anniversary of the rebellion that has seen more than 8,000 Syrians killed, paint a portrait of a first family remarkably insulated from the mounting crisis and continuing to enjoy a luxurious lifestyle.

The president’s wife spent thousands of dollars over the internet for designer goods while he swaps entertaining internet links on his iPad and downloads music from iTunes. Even while the civil war waged, Mrs Assad spent more than £10,000 on candlesticks, tables and chandeliers from Paris and instructed an aide to order a fondue set from Amazon.

Bashar al-Assad took advice from Iran on how to handle the uprising against his rule, according to a cache of what appear to be several thousand emails received and sent by the Syrian leader and his wife.

The Syrian leader was also briefed in detail about the presence of western journalists in the Baba Amr district of Homs and urged to "tighten the security grip" on the opposition-held city in November.

•Assad established a network of trusted aides who reported directly to him through his “private” email account – bypassing both his clan and the country's security apparatus.

• Assad made light of reforms he had promised in an attempt to defuse the crisis, referring to "rubbish laws of parties, elections, media".

• A daughter of the emir of Qatar, Hamid bin Khalifa al-Thani, this year advised Assads to leave Syria and suggested Doha may offer them exile.

• Assad sidestepped extensive US sanctions against him by using a third party with a US address to make purchases of music and apps from iTunes.

• A Dubai-based company, al-Shahba, with a registered office in London is a key conduit for Syrian government business and purchases of Mrs Assad.

The emails offer a rare window into the mind of the isolated Syrian leader, apparently lurching between self-pity, defiance and flippancy as he swapped links to amusing video footage with his aides and wife. On one occasion he forwards to an aide a link to YouTube footage of a crude re-enactment of the siege of Homs using toys and biscuits.

Much of Assad's media advice comes from two young US-educated Syrian women, Sheherazad Jaafari and Hadeel al-Al. Both regularly stress to Assad, who uses the address sam@alshahba, the importance of social media and intervening in online discussions.

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