The European Union has decided to punish Syrian president Bashar al-Assad by banning his mother, sister, wife and sister-in-law from travelling within the 27 members states. They have also frozen their bank accounts and other assets. However, it's unclear how the move will affect Asma al-Assad, his wife and former international style icon.
The travel ban means that the Assad women won't be able to enter the EU. However, since Asma is a British-born former investment banker and, therefore, a UK national, she is exempt from the overall ban and is still able to travel to London – just not to nations within the rest of the union. Under the European Union visa regime, the overall travel ban won't stop passport-holders from continuing to travel to that nation. British officials confirmed that she has a valid British passport.
Foreign Secretary William Hauge has confirmed that Asma will be allowed to visit her parents in London, but he doesn't think she will. British passport-holders have a right to enter the UK, but since they are imposing an asset freeze and travel ban on these individuals and others in the same family, they don't expect Asma to try to travel to London right now. British government forces say, despite the asset freeze, Asma will also be able to use the home she owns in London, and they won't try to strip her of her British nationality. There's nothing they can do about her entering the country without good reason.
Emails from the Assad regime have recently been leaked, revealing a culture of high-living and luxury shopping in Paris and London, while the regime turned its artillery randomly on heavily populated areas. It's not clear if the travel ban and assets freeze will keep the Syrian president's wife from going on shopping sprees at Harrod's if she wants. Hague says they don't expect Asma to visit the UK, so they don't expect her to go shopping there either.
The restrictions on her ability to shop in the UK may be less limiting that thought. All bank accounts and credit cards are being frozen, but British officials say blacklisted individuals will be banned from buying basic goods under Home Office rules. This would still allow them to shop for luxury items, though the basic and luxury goods were distinguished.
A source said that sanctions are imposed to encourage individuals to change their behaviour. Sanctions don't lead to automatic arrest or action to take away someone's nationality. Asma's British assets will be frozen to prevent her from selling her home in London or having access to rental income. The assets can only be unfrozen under a Treasury licence.
Hague says that the new sanctions, which have now been imposed on over 100 members of the Assad regime, show a resolve to up the pressure, diplomatic and economic stranglehold on the regime. They can't accept the killing and repression of Syrian citizens, he added.
The Syrian President has been under European Union sanctions for nearly a year now, which has had little effect on his bloody crackdown against Syrian civilians and revolutionaries, as well as his policies. Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu says Assad has to be stop quickly, as no-one can justify randomly attacking urban areas with heavy weapons. Turkey shares a 500-mile border with Syria and has accepted some 17,000 refugees, while 1,000 more arrive every day.