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Emails Reveal Syria's Assad Was Shopping, While Directing Bloody Crackdown

In someways regular life has gone on for Syrian President Bashar Assad and his family.

Despite the fact that over the past year, his government has led a bloody offensive that's killed more than 7,500 of his own people, the Syrian dictator still shopped for music and clothes as well as shared jokes and videos with friends.

That's according to a cache of emails intercepted by Assad's opposition and handed over to The Guardian, which verified the authenticity of some emails but was unable to verify all of them. They report:

"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.

"They appear to show the president's wife spending thousands of dollars over the internet for designer goods while he swaps entertaining internet links on his iPad and downloads music from iTunes.

"As the world watched in horror at the brutal suppression of protests across the country and many Syrians faced food shortages and other hardships, 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."

The emails also show that Assad directly commanded the attacks on Homs and that he was also very involved in the media strategy to blunt the criticism of the crackdown.

Perhaps the most interesting emails are those exchanged between Assad's wife Asma and Qatar emir's daughter, Mayassa al-Thani.

Thani communicated often with Asma but the communication chilled, the Guardian reports, after Thani sent this email on Jan. 30:

"Just been following the latest developments in Syria ... in all honesty – looking at the tide of history and the escalation of recent events – we've seen two results – leaders stepping down and getting political asylum or leaders being brutally attacked. I honestly think this is a good opportunity to leave and re-start a normal life. I only pray that you will convince the president to take this an opportunity to exit without having to face charges. The region needs to stabilise, but not more than you need peace of mind. I am sure you have many places to turn to, including Doha."

The Guardian has full coverage of coverage of the emails here.

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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