The five pictures posted on the Facebook page of the president’s media office were supposedly taken in Damascus on Jan. 22 and show a slender-looking Asma greeting Syrian students at a scientific competition. Though their date and location cannot be independently confirmed, they represent the strongest official attempt yet to deny the rumored pregnancy.
The images are also the first to be seen of Assad’s elegant, British-born wife in more than a year, since the couple appeared at a rally in central Damascus last January. Her prolonged absence from the public eye had sparked intense speculation first that she had fled the country and later that she was expecting her fourth child.
The pregnancy rumors intensified this week after al-Akhbar, a Lebanese newspaper sympathetic to the regime, appeared to confirm them in a report that quoted unnamed people who had visited Assad. The president’s office subsequently rebuked The Washington Post for quoting the al-Akhbar report in a blog, and denied that Assad had told anyone his wife was pregnant.
Earlier this week, a statement on the Facebook page also disputed claims by the U.S. ambassador to Damascus, Robert Ford, that Assad’s mother, Anisa Makhlouf, had fled to the United Arab Emirates.