Video: Syria's first lady surprisingly modern

By Ann Curry
NBC News
updated 5/9/2007 7:54:01 PM ET 2007-05-09T23:54:01

Asma Assad is a revelation — with a competitive edge learned on Wall Street, a light-up-the-room charisma, and a down-to-earth touch. Born and raised in Britain, she is now the modern face of Syria.

"I remember growing up in the U.K. and the perceptions toward the region as a whole, not just Syria, and the perception is of a distant place, almost exotic, almost alien," Assad says.

The U.S. government sees Syria differently, bluntly calling it a state sponsor of terrorism. Mrs. Assad sees her role as changing how the outside world sees Syria. And how the next Syrian generation sees the world.

"It's a country of transition and with that you need to develop in your human capital more than anything else, which means education, it means building capabilities and skills," she says.

So across Syria, she has started programs to open up young minds to new ideas.

The former banker, just 31, married Bashar Assad seven years ago. The couple have three children.

Curry: Do you ever pinch yourself, stop and say look, I am the first lady of Syria?

Assad: That is what I do, that's not who I am. At the end of the day, I am the same person that I was before I married the president. And I'll be the same person, hopefully, going forward.

Her openness has pulled back the curtain on her husband who is seen as being remote and authoritarian.

Curry: What is it the West doesn't know about your husband?

Assad: I can't comment about the president. I don't see him as a president, per se. I see him as a husband, as a friend.

Curry: As a good father?

Assad: I am biased — you need to ask my kids.

Curry: What is your dream, your wish, for what might be said of you as a couple ruling this country?

Assad: We share the same principle, and that is to make a difference.

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