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Page last updated at 09:05 GMT, Friday, 20 April 2012 10:05 UK

How much power do dictators' wives have?


The wives of the German and British ambassadors to the UN have released a video urging Syria's first lady to help end the bloodshed in her country.

But do the wives of autocratic leaders have the power to change the course of history?

Jane Kinninmont, senior research fellow at the Middle East and North Africa Programme, said that it may be too late for Asma Assad to change.

"All we've seen is her standing by and supporting her husbands regime very vocally," she said.

Simon Sebag-Montefiore, historian and author of Monsters: History's Most Evil Men and Women, said that "one expects beautiful people to be good people".

But there are only a few historical examples of women rebelling against their husbands, he said.

He maintained that Syria is more like a mafia regime with Asma Assad "more Carmella Soprano than Empress Theodora".

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