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[ MAIN ]INTERNATIONALSPECIAL REPORTS

Surrounded by children, Syria’s first lady makes rare appearance

By Ashley Fantz, CNN
The controversial wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad made a rare public appearance over the weekend at the Damascus Opera House.

Asma al-Assad attended an event Saturday called “Mother’s Rally,” according to a single statement on her husband’s official Facebook page. The event was a fundraiser for mothers of “martyrs,” or government soldiers, killed in the two-year war. The three children she has with the Syrian president joined her at the event, according to the Facebook message.

Posted photos show the 37-year-old smiling, her hair in a ponytail. Children and young women surround her. They seem overjoyed. A few snap photos. One woman kisses the first lady on the cheek.

“The regime is trying to telegraph that it’s business as usual and she is a way to do that,” said Andrew Tabler, an American expert on Syria who once lived in the country and interacted with the first family. “Not only is this a sign that she’s standing by her man, but that the core of the regime is not cracking.”

Syrian jets fire into Lebanon, reports say
Syrian rebels take position in Aleppo, the largest city in the country, on March 11. Tensions in Syria flared in March 2011, escalating into a civil war that still rages today. This gallery contains the most compelling images taken since the start of the fighting. Syrian rebels take position in Aleppo, the largest city in the country, on March 11. Tensions in Syria flared in March 2011, escalating into a civil war that still rages today. This gallery contains the most compelling images taken since the start of the fighting.

Syrian men search for their relatives amongst the bodies of civilians executed and dumped in the Quweiq River on March 11. Syrian men search for their relatives amongst the bodies of civilians executed and dumped in the Quweiq River on March 11.
Ahmed, a Syrian rebel, uses his modified rifle to fire a homemade pipe bomb toward government forces during clashes on March 7. Ahmed, a Syrian rebel, uses his modified rifle to fire a homemade pipe bomb toward government forces during clashes on March 7.
A Free Syrian Army fighter looks back as smoke rises during fighting between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of Aleppo on Saturday, March 2. A Free Syrian Army fighter looks back as smoke rises during fighting between rebel fighters and forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad on the outskirts of Aleppo on Saturday, March 2.
Residents read Shaam News newspapers published by the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo on March 2. Residents read Shaam News newspapers published by the Free Syrian Army in Aleppo on March 2.
A member of the Free Syrian Army reacts to the death of a comrade who was killed in fighting, at Bustan al Qasr cemetery in Aleppo on Friday, March 1. A member of the Free Syrian Army reacts to the death of a comrade who was killed in fighting, at Bustan al Qasr cemetery in Aleppo on Friday, March 1.
A rebel fighter throws a home-made grenade at Syrian government forces in Aleppo on February 16. A rebel fighter throws a home-made grenade at Syrian government forces in Aleppo on February 16.
A member of the Free Syrian Army stands with his weapon as he looks at a rainbow in Aleppo on February 16. A member of the Free Syrian Army stands with his weapon as he looks at a rainbow in Aleppo on February 16.
A Syrian woman looks through a bus window in Aleppo on February 14. A Syrian woman looks through a bus window in Aleppo on February 14.
Free Syrian Army fighters walk through a dust-filled stairwell in Damascus on February 7. Free Syrian Army fighters walk through a dust-filled stairwell in Damascus on February 7.
A Syrian rebel gestures at comrades from inside a broken armored personnel carrier in Al-Yaqubia on February 6. A Syrian rebel gestures at comrades from inside a broken armored personnel carrier in Al-Yaqubia on February 6.
A rebel fighter throws a hand grenade inside a Syrian Army base in Damascus on February 3. A rebel fighter throws a hand grenade inside a Syrian Army base in Damascus on February 3.
People stand in the dust of a building destroyed in an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria on February 3. People stand in the dust of a building destroyed in an airstrike in Aleppo, Syria on February 3.
Free Syrian Army fighters run as they enter a Syrian Army base during heavy fighting in the Arabeen neighborhood of Damascus on February 3. Free Syrian Army fighters run as they enter a Syrian Army base during heavy fighting in the Arabeen neighborhood of Damascus on February 3.
An unexploded mortar shell fired by the Syrian Army sits lodged in the ground in Damascus on January 25. An unexploded mortar shell fired by the Syrian Army sits lodged in the ground in Damascus on January 25.
Fighters from Fateh al Sham unit of the Free Syrian Army fire on Syrian Army soldiers at a check point in Damascus on January 20. Fighters from Fateh al Sham unit of the Free Syrian Army fire on Syrian Army soldiers at a check point in Damascus on January 20.
A Free Syrian Army fighter walks between buildings damaged during Syrian Air Force strikes in Damascus on January 19. A Free Syrian Army fighter walks between buildings damaged during Syrian Air Force strikes in Damascus on January 19.
A Syrian rebel fighter tries to locate a government jet fighter in Aleppo on January 18. A Syrian rebel fighter tries to locate a government jet fighter in Aleppo on January 18.
Syrian rebels launch a missile near the Abu Baker brigade in Albab on January 16. Syrian rebels launch a missile near the Abu Baker brigade in Albab on January 16.
A Syrian boy walks near rubbish next to tents at a refugee camp near the northern city of Azaz on the Syria-Turkey border, on January 8. A Syrian boy walks near rubbish next to tents at a refugee camp near the northern city of Azaz on the Syria-Turkey border, on January 8.
Syrians look for survivors amid the rubble of a building targeted by a missile in Aleppo on January 7. Syrians look for survivors amid the rubble of a building targeted by a missile in Aleppo on January 7.
A father reacts after hearing of a shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on January 3. A father reacts after hearing of a shelling by forces loyal to Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad in Aleppo on January 3.
A patient smokes a cigarette at Dar Al-Ajaza psychiatric hospital in Aleppo on December 18, 2012. The psychiatric ward, housing around 60 patients, has lacked the means to function properly since fighting broke out there in July. A patient smokes a cigarette at Dar Al-Ajaza psychiatric hospital in Aleppo on December 18, 2012. The psychiatric ward, housing around 60 patients, has lacked the means to function properly since fighting broke out there in July.
Syrians mourn a fallen rebel fighter at a rebel base in the al-Fardos area of Aleppo on December 8. Syrians mourn a fallen rebel fighter at a rebel base in the al-Fardos area of Aleppo on December 8.
Members of Liwa (Brigade) Salahadin, a Kurdish military unit fighting alongside rebel fighters, monitor the area in the besieged district of Karmel al-Jabl in Aleppo on December 6. Members of Liwa (Brigade) Salahadin, a Kurdish military unit fighting alongside rebel fighters, monitor the area in the besieged district of Karmel al-Jabl in Aleppo on December 6.
A member of Liwa Salahadin aims at a regime fighter in the besieged district of Karmel al-Jabl in Aleppo on December 6. A member of Liwa Salahadin aims at a regime fighter in the besieged district of Karmel al-Jabl in Aleppo on December 6.
Two young boys sit underneath a washline in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Turkey near Azaz on December 5. Two young boys sit underneath a washline in a refugee camp on the border between Syria and Turkey near Azaz on December 5.
The bodies of three children, who were allegedly killed in a mortar shell attack that landed close to a bakery in Aleppo, on December 2, are laid out for identification by family members at a makeshift hospital at an undisclosed location of the city. The bodies of three children, who were allegedly killed in a mortar shell attack that landed close to a bakery in Aleppo, on December 2, are laid out for identification by family members at a makeshift hospital at an undisclosed location of the city.
Smoke rises in the Hanano and Bustan al-Basha districts in Aleppo on December 1 as fighting continues through the night. Smoke rises in the Hanano and Bustan al-Basha districts in Aleppo on December 1 as fighting continues through the night.
Damaged houses in Aleppo are seen after an airstrike on November 29. Damaged houses in Aleppo are seen after an airstrike on November 29.
A Syrian rebel mourns the death of a comrade in Maraat al-Numan on November 20. A Syrian rebel mourns the death of a comrade in Maraat al-Numan on November 20.
Syrians protesters stand on Assad’s portrait during an anti-regime demonstration in Aleppo on November 16. Syrians protesters stand on Assad’s portrait during an anti-regime demonstration in Aleppo on November 16.
A Syrian rebel takes cover during fighting against Syrian government forces in Aleppo on November 15. A Syrian rebel takes cover during fighting against Syrian government forces in Aleppo on November 15.
Syrian opposition fighter Bazel Araj, 19, sleeps next to his pistol in Aleppo on November 11. Syrian opposition fighter Bazel Araj, 19, sleeps next to his pistol in Aleppo on November 11.
A rebel fighter fires at a Syrian government position in Aleppo on November 6. A rebel fighter fires at a Syrian government position in Aleppo on November 6.
A Syrian rebel leaps over debris left in the street while running across a “sniper alley” near the Salahudeen district in Aleppo on November 4. A Syrian rebel leaps over debris left in the street while running across a “sniper alley” near the Salahudeen district in Aleppo on November 4.
SOURCE:CNN.com International

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