EU Slaps Sanctions on Syrian First Lady

Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting at the Petit Palais in Paris, July 13, 2008 file photo.
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife, Asma, arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting at the Petit Palais in Paris, July 13, 2008 file photo.

The European Union imposed a travel ban and asset freeze on Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's British-born wife and several other members of his family and administration Friday.

Meanwhile in Geneva, the United Nations Human Rights Council also toughened its stance on Syria with a sharp condemnation of Syria's "escalating violence" and called for an extension of a probe into the Syrian government's alleged abuses in the last year of unrest.  

The 47-member body voted 41 to three in favor of an EU-sponsored resolution backed by the United States and Arab countries. China, Russia and Cuba voted against the measure.

In Washington, the Obama administration said it will allow Syrians in the country to remain even after their visa expired and not deport those in the U.S. illegally.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano said Syrians in the United States will be given protected status because they would "they would face serious threats to their personal safety" if they were to return.

European foreign ministers meeting in Brussels slapped new sanctions on Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad, the president's mother and sister, as well as eight government officials. The sanctions will go into effect Saturday.

Ahead of the EU meeting in Brussel, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said the European body is greatly concerned over the Syrian crisis and that sanctions are a "really important tool" to include in the political framework on Syria.

"I never underestimate that sanctions make a significant difference because they do two things, one is they target individuals' entities in ways that prevent them from carrying on business as usual. And secondly they make the strong political statement about how the international community feels about what's going on," Ashton said.

The sanctions come after emails leaked show Mrs. Assad allegedly went on lavish shopping sprees while Syria descended into violence. British officials say the EU travel ban can not stop the Syrian first lady from traveling to Britain, if she has retained her citizenship.

The diplomatic action comes as opposition activists reported continued violence on Friday.  The British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights told VOA three Syrian army defectors were killed during heavy fighting in Azaz, near the border with Turkey.  It said 13 civilians died Friday.  

The rights group also said Syrian forces continued their assault on the central city of Homs - the site of a highly publicized siege earlier in the year.

Amnesty International called on UN special envoy to Syria Kofi Annan to include the monitoring of human rights abuses in his six-point peace plan backed by the UN Security Council earlier this week. The London-based human rights group says its "essential" to document the crimes in order to hold those responsible accountable in the future.

Annan's spokesperson says the former U.N. chief plans to travel to Moscow and Beijing later this week for crisis talks on the issue.  He said Annan is still "carefully" studying the Syrian responses his proposal, after returning from three days of intensive talks in Damascus.

The United Nations says at least 8,000 people have been killed in the Assad government's violent crackdown on the revolt, which began with peaceful protests and became increasingly militarized as army defectors attacked pro-Assad troops who assaulted civilians.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.

Join the conversation on our social journalism site -
Middle East Voices
. Follow our Middle East reports on
Twitter and discuss them on our Facebook page.
This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments page of 2
by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:50 AM
just live in bondage and go pray ten thousand times per day. what a life.While the Sheiks, and the Khalifas, and the Clerics have a very large "harem of pretty women" guess what they are doing?

by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:50 AM
....Why? because their dominination over women and all the countries resources, becoming rich and having large Harems, while thousands of people in those very rich oil states are living in poverty. They want to reserve power for their own clan from father to son to brother they all have all the wealth and the people are brain washed to worship muhomad and dont question authority

by: rightarm-of- jah
March 23, 2012 10:47 AM
There have been uprising in at least 10 other Moslem/Arab countries who rise up for real liberty and justice, guess what? their leaders have all said, it is from terroist and Al Queada

by: Fatimah
March 23, 2012 9:30 AM
Asma Assad is like a modern day Marie Antoinette only worse. Marie was oblivious to the suffering of the French common citizens while she enjoyed her royal lifestyle. Asma has lived in a free society and enjoyed the privileges of a democratic government. She is now advocating the oppression of the common Syrian citizen while enjoying her royal lifestyle.

by: Kubrick
March 23, 2012 7:48 AM
2012 Dictature Odyssey

by: NVO
March 23, 2012 6:56 AM
The EU is a CORRUPT, SECULAR, EVIL , organization in the same family as The Trilateral Commission, The Club of Rome, The Bilderbers, The Counsel On Foreign Relations, ALL pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT under THE NEW WORLD ORDER, to be headed by the ANTICHRIST and THE FALSE PROPHET. Catherine Ashton and Bon-Key-Monkey are both NEW WORLD ORDER DRONES!

by: NVO
March 23, 2012 6:28 AM
The EU is a SHAMEFUL, SECULAR, CORRUPT, organization in the same family with The Trilateral Commission, The Club of Rome, The Bilderbergs, The Counsel on Foreign Relations. ALL pushing for a ONE WORLD GOVERNMENT under the NEW WORLD ORDER, which will be headed by the AntiChrist and the False Prophet. Catherine Ashton is a SHAMEFUL, NEW WORLD ORDER DRONE!

March 23, 2012 5:51 AM
Ziad a.Fadel your secular government wouldn't have been on power if Iranian non secular government had not supported it with oil money. neither you or Hezbollah wouldn't even exist if Iranian regime stop providing you with money an intelligent. it is ironic that all devil countries suppress their own people but support the other evils.

by: S.H.Huang
March 23, 2012 5:36 AM
Sanctions, no matter how harsh they may be, did not work in the past; and will not work today or to-morrow. In the menatime, ordinary Syrians are dying every day; and no nation is helping the people. Men, women and children have been killed. What is the UN doing about it other than sanction after sanction after sanction?Simple but unavoidable solution: arm the rebels; and even send in troops (UN-backed ). Then the tide will turn against the Syrian Government!

by: ANA
March 23, 2012 5:35 AM
,,,"Syrian government, which he said continues its "murdering" behavior." hellloooooo people, its not the Syrian government! its terrorists and outsiders from neighboring countries in the Middle East. Ive been to Syria 8 times! if only people would open up their eyes...
Comments page of 2

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continuesi
Ayesha Tanzeem
November 25, 2015 10:46 PM
One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Belgium-Germany Border Remains Porous, Even As Manhunt For Paris Attacker Continues

One of the suspected gunmen in the Nov. 13 Paris attacks, Salah Abdeslam, evaded law enforcement, made his way to Belgium, and is now believed to have fled to Germany. VOA correspondent Ayesha Tanzeem makes the journey across the border from Belgium into Germany to see how porous the borders really are.

Video Islamic State Unfazed by Losses in Iraq, Syria

Progress in the U.S.-led effort to beat Islamic State on its home turf in Iraq and Syria has led some to speculate the terror group may be growing desperate. But counterterror officials say that is not the case, and warn the recent spate of terror attacks is merely part of the group’s evolution. VOA National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more.

Video Taiwan Looks for Role in South China Sea Dispute

The Taiwanese government is one of several that claims territory in the hotly contested South China Sea, but Taipei has long been sidelined in the dispute, overshadowed by China. Now, as the Philippines challenges Beijing’s claims in an international court at The Hague, Taipei is looking to publicly assert its claims. VOA’s Bill Ide has more from Beijing.

Video Syrian Refugees in US Express Concern for Those Left Behind

Syrian immigrants in the United States are concerned about the negative tide of public opinion and the politicians who want to block a U.S. plan to accept 10,000 Syrian refugees. Zlatica Hoke reports many Americans are fighting to dispel suspicions linking refugees to terrorists.

Video After Paris Attacks, France Steps Up Fight Against IS

The November 13 Paris attacks have drawn increased attention to Syria, where many of the suspected perpetrators are said to have received training. French President Francois Hollande is working to build a broad international coalition to defeat Islamic State in Syria and in Iraq. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video US, Cambodian Navies Pair Up in Gulf of Thailand

The U.S. Navy has deployed one of its newest and most advanced ships to Cambodia to conduct joint training drills in the Gulf of Thailand. Riding hull-to-hull with Cambodian ships, the seamen of the USS Fort Worth are executing joint-training drills that will help build relations in Southeast Asia. David Boyle reports for VOA from Preah Sihanouk province.

Video Americans Sharpen Focus on Terrorism

Washington will be quieter than usual this week due to the Thanksgiving holiday, even as Americans across the nation register heightened concerns over possible terrorist threats. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports new polling data from ABC News and the Washington Post newspaper show an electorate increasingly focused on security issues after the deadly Islamic State attacks in Paris.

Video World Leaders Head to Paris for Climate Deal

Heads of state from nearly 80 countries are heading to Paris (November 30-December 11) to craft a global climate change agreement. The new accord will replace the Kyoto Protocol on Climate Change that expired in 2012.

Video Uncertain Future for Syrian Refugee Resettlement in Illinois

For the trickle of Syrian refugees finding new homes in the Midwest city of Chicago, the call to end resettlement in many U.S. states is adding another dimension to their long journey fleeing war. Organizations working to help them integrate say the backlash since the Paris attacks is both harming and helping their efforts to provide refugees sanctuary. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

Video Creating Physical Virtual Reality With Tiny Drones

As many computer gamers know, virtual reality is a three-dimensional picture, projected inside special googles. It can fool your brain into thinking the computer world is the real world. But If you try to touch it, it’s not there. Now Canadian researchers say it may be possible to create a physical virtual reality using tiny drones. VOA’s George Putic reports.

Video New American Indian Village Takes Visitors Back in Time

There is precious little opportunity to experience what life was like in the United States before its colonization by European settlers. Now, an American Indian village built in a park outside Washington is taking visitors back in time to experience the way of life of America's indigenous people. Carol Pearson narrates this report from VOA's June Soh.

Video Even With Hometown Liberated, Yazidi Refugees Fear Return

While the northern Iraqi town of Sinjar has been liberated from Islamic State forces, it's not clear whether Yazidi residents who fled the militants will now return home. VOA’s Mahmut Bozarslan talked with Yazidis, a religious and ethnic minority, at a Turkish refugee camp in Diyarbakır. Robert Raffaele narrates his report.

Video Nairobi Tailors Make Pope Francis’ Vestments

To ensure the pope is properly attired during his visit, the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops asked the Dolly Craft Sewing Project in the Nairobi slum of Kangemi to make the pope's vestments, the garments he will wear during the various ceremonies. Jill Craig reports.

Video Cross-Border Terrorism Puts Europe’s Passport-Free Travel in Doubt

The fallout from the Islamic State terror attacks in Paris has put the future of Europe’s passport-free travel area, known as the "Schengen Zone," in doubt. Several of the perpetrators were known to intelligence agencies, but were not intercepted. Henry Ridgwell reports from London European ministers are to hold an emergency meeting Friday in Brussels to look at ways of improving security.

Video El Niño Brings Unexpected Fish From Mexico to California

Fish in an unexpected spectrum of sizes, shapes and colors are moving north, through El Niño's warm currents from Mexican waters to the Pacific Ocean off California’s coast. El Nino is the periodic warming of the eastern and central Pacific Ocean. As Faiza Elmasry tells us, this phenomenon thrills scientists and gives anglers the chance of a once-in-a-lifetime big catch. Faith Lapidus narrates.

Video Terrorism in Many Forms Continues to Plague Africa

While the world's attention is on Paris in the wake of Friday night's deadly attacks, terrorism from various sides remains a looming threat in many African countries. Nigerian cities have been targeted this week by attacks many believe were staged by the violent Islamist group Boko Haram. In addition, residents in many regions are forced to flee their homes as they are terrorized by armed militias. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Study: Underage Marriage Rate Higher for Females in Pakistan

While attitudes about the societal role of females in Pakistan are evolving, research by child advocacy group Plan International suggests that underage marriage of girls remains a particularly big issue in the country. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports how such marriages leads to further social problems.

VOA Blogs