TODAY   |  August 30, 2013

Is Syria’s first lady a modern Marie Antoinette?

London-born Asma al-Assad , the first lady of Syria, was once a sign of peace and hope for the region, but now is continuing to follow a lavish lifestyle within a country that is crumbling around her. TODAY’s Erica Hill reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>> first, we want to get to today's cover story . another side to the conflict in syria . the british born wife of the syrian president . today's erica hill has her story.

>> good morning to you. she is standing by hermann, smiling by his side in recent photos and she is also inspiring newcomb pair is ones to other famous wives but not the kind most people would want.

>> in pictures she appears to be the ultimate first lady. active in charity work . perfectly styled, well educated. a 2011 piece called her glamorous, young and very chic. the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.

>> always looking her best. likes to travel. well educated.

>> born in london to syrian parents, she was raised and educated in england. he worked in banking before quitting in late 2000 to move to syria and marry president bashar al assad . she first met him in 2002 .

>> she was seen as the kinder more gentle face of the regime.

>> she was a suni muslim who married in offering hope to the suni population.

>> she was well liked but overtime she was seen as someone that had thrown her lot in with the president.

>> the mother of three has stood by her husband despite rumors at one point she fled the country with their three children. last year leaked e-mails appeared to show her spending lavishly even as her family ancestry home was under attack.

>> as they were detroying her hometown, the accounts have her buying pieces of art online and other kinds of high end shopping.

>> as the world grapples with imagines of chemical attacks, the instagram feed is hoping to show a different side of the first lady. smiling as she prepares food for refugees, preparing boxes with her husband surrounded by adoring syrians. pictures that have inspired comparisons to a modern day marie antoinette . the author that was not available to speak with nbc news told the daily beast last year she regrets it.

>> the message that she gave me every day for a week was how much she cared about the children of syria and how she wanted to empower them. i had serious misgivings.

>> whatever the true story maybe, two years into this brutal conflict, it is far from the fairy tale they tried to portray.

>> other than the recent instagram photos she has been keeping a pretty low profile during the increasing violence in syria .