Remember a few months ago, smack dab in the middle of what we’re now calling the Arab Spring, Vogue published that buttery profile of Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad? Well, Asma has fled her protest-torn country, and now any attempts to get to that story on Vogue’s website are met with a hyper-branded Vogue error message (The content you’re looking for cannot be found!) that features Sasha Pivovarova doing some serious mean mugging.
That’s because since the profile was published, Asma’s husband, Syrian president Bashar Assad, has been hard at work cracking down on anti-government demonstrators, and has by some estimates killed 300 protestors and put about 10,000 more behind bars. Those demonstrations started in March, when a group protesters was beaten and jailed after calling for the release of group of political prisoners about 3,000 strong.
Asma is believed to be in London or in one of the surrounding counties with her children, having been told by a government official to “get out as soon as you can.”
The article was published in the March issue of Vogue, and since it landed online and on newsstands, it’s gotten a lot of controversy for making the magazine appear blind to the struggles of people not just in Syria, but all over the Middle East. Vogue senior editor Chris Knutsen explained that the profile went to press before the revolutions in , and that it wasn’t intended to be a “referendum on the al-Assad regime,” but instead a profile of Syria’s first lady.
The story’s publication might have been ill-timed, but for a long time the magazine stood by the story by at least keeping it alive online, and they should have — it took writer Joan Juliet Buck the better part of a year (and, we’re guessing, a lot of Vogue fundage) to gain access to al-Assad, research her life and write the profile.
But deleting it from the annals of the Internet seems cowardly. Vogue understands that it has made an embarrassing mistake. But acting like it never happened isn’t going to make it go away.