News

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
    Next 
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!

by: BOBBAK
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
    Next 

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Wini
X
July 28, 2015 12:21 AM
The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Iran Nuclear Pact Wins Few New US Congressional Backers

Later this week, President Barack Obama returns from a trip to Africa to confront a U.S. Congress roiled by the nuclear accord with Iran, an agreement that has received the blessing of the U.N. Security Council. Days of intensive lobbying and testimony by top administration officials have won few new congressional supporters of the pact. VOA’s Michael Bowman reports.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Obama Encourages Kenya to Fix Cultures of Corruption, Discrimination

President Barack Obama bid farewell to Kenya Sunday with a major speech at as stadium outside the capital Nairobi where he called on Kenyans to change the cultures of corruption and discrimination that can hold society back. VOA East Africa Correspondent Gabe Joselow has the story.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video California Towns Welcome Special Olympics Athletes

Cities and towns in Southern California are greeting thousands of athletes who are arriving for Special Olympics, a competition for people with intellectual disabilities. The games will run from July 25th through August 2nd. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports from Pasadena, California, where athletes from Namibia, Singapore and Tanzania got a rousing welcome from local residents.
Video

Video Critics of Japan Defense Policy Focus on Okinawa

In Okinawa, many locals have long complained that Tokyo places an unfair burden on the tiny island by locating most of Japan's U.S. military bases there. As Japan's government moves toward strengthening and expanding the country's defense policies, opponents of those plans are joining local protesters in Okinawa, voicing concern about where the country is headed. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Okinawa.
Video

Video IS Uses Chemical Weapons in Syrian Attack

Islamic State militants have added a new weapon in their arsenal of fear: chemical weapons. VOA Kurdish service reporter Zana Omer was on the scene within hours of a recent attack in Hasakah, Syria, and has details of the subsequent investigation, in this report narrated by Miguel Amaya.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.
Video

Video Hoverbike Flying Toward Reality

Another long-standing dream of many technological inventors is quickly approaching reality: U.S.- and British-based firms are cooperating in the development of an individual flying platform they call a hoverbike. They say it may revolutionize the concept of flying, including in the U.S. military. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video As Japan Expands Defense Role, Protests Follow

The Japanese government is moving forward with a controversial security bill that would authorize the military to fight abroad for the first time since World War II. Leaders say it is critical to defend against rising threats from China and North Korea. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from Japan on the big changes ahead, and the opposition they are drawing.
Video

Video Replacing Poppies with Coffee in Myanmar

The remote mountains of Myanmar’s Shan state are home to the second-largest opium-producing region in the world. After a drop during the 2000s, production surged in the past eight years to feed an increasing demand for heroin in China. But farmers are now making less on the crop, and the U.N. is hoping many will make the switch to growing coffee. Daniel de Carteret reports for VOA from Taunggyi.

VOA Blogs