Syria’s Bashar al-Assad was born September 11, 1965.
Bashar al-Assad is the President of Syria and, like his father, Regional Secretary of the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party.
Bashar has been President since 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who ruled Syria for 30 years prior to his death.
Bashar grew up in the shadow of his more dynamic and outgoing older brother, Bassel. Bassel was in the process of being groomed to take over as president from Hafez, so Bashar had no plans for political life. The death of Bassel in a car crash changed all that.
Quiet and reserved, Bashar went to high school at the Arab-French al Hurriya School in Damascus, Syria, where he learned to speak English and French fluently. He graduated in 1982, and went on to study medicine at the University of Damascus, graduating in 1988. In 1992, he completed his residency in ophthalmology at the Tishreen military hospital outside of Damascus. He then attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital in London, England.
In 1994, Bashar was recalled from London, after his brother Bassel died in an automobile accident. His father Hafez, moved to have Bashar succeed him as president. Bashar entered the military academy at Homs, north of Damascus, where he was pushed through the ranks quickly. He became a colonel in only five years.
Bashar’s father, Hafez al-Assad, died on June 10, 2000. In the days that followed, Syria’s parliament quickly voted to lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 34, so that Bashar could be eligible for the office. Ten days after Hafez’s death, Bashar was chosen for a seven-year term as president. Running unopposed in a public referendum, he received 97 percent of the vote. He also became leader of the Ba’ath Party and commander in chief of the military.
In 2007, he ran unopposed for president again.
Initially Bashar promised to transform the country and propel Syria into the 21st century, gaining the nickname “The Hope”. His promises were all empty rhetoric. Instead, when demands for reform occurred, beginning on January 26, 2011, just like his father, he responded with a violent crackdown.
By July 2012, according to analysts, Assad had amassed a fortune of perhaps $1.5 billion for himself, his family, and his associates. These funds are held in Russia, Hong Kong and offshore tax havens, to spread the risk of seizure.
The Syrian revolt, now in its 2nd year, is the bloodiest revolt of the Arab Spring so far. Most of the international community has subsequently called for al-Assad’s resignation from power. Only Russia, China, Iran, Venezuela, and some sectors in Lebanon, publicly cling to the hope that Bashar will survive.