How old is Bashar al-Assad, when did he become Syria’s president and how did he meet his wife Asma?

BASHAR al-Assad’s crimes against his own people and the slaughter of innocent civilians have left the world outraged.

The Syrian president has ruled the country with an iron fist for almost two decades. But what do we know about him?

Who is Bashar al-Assad?

Born on September 11, 1965, Bashar is the second son of former Syrian President Hafez al-Assad, and his wife Anisa.

He was educated at the Arab-French al-Hurriya School in Damascus, where he learned to speak English and French fluently.

Bashar graduated from school in 1982 and continued studying medicine at the University of Damascus, graduating in 1988.

He then went to London in 1992 to the Western Eye Hospital to further his studies, where he lived the life of a typical medical student and had no ambitions to start a political career.

Bashar al-Assad inherited his powers in July 2000, a month after his military strongman father died.

His father rose to power through the Syrian military before taking control of Syria in 1970.

The family are from the country's Alawite minority and that remains a key powerbase.

Did Bashar al-Assad want to be President?

Assad is a trained eye doctor who never wanted to be president.

He was forced to return to Damascus from London when his older brother Bassel – who was groomed to take over from his dad – died in a car crash in 1994, at the age of 33.

Assad was propelled into politics at the age of 29 despite showing little interest in running the country.

He entered the military academy at Homs, located in North Damascus, and was quickly pushed through the ranks.

Assad became a lieutenant-colonel within five years and was then promoted to colonel in January 1999.

During this time, he also served as an adviser to his father, hearing appeals from citizens and led a campaign against corruption.

When Hafez died on June 10, 2000, the Syrian parliament quickly voted to lower the minimum age for presidential candidates from 40 to 34, making Assad eligible to take office.

Assad took office on July 11, 2000, and simultaneously became leader of the Ba'ath Party and commander in chief of the military.

He was elected president, officially with more than 97 per cent of the vote.

In his inaugural speech, he affirmed his commitment to economic liberalisation and vowed to carry out some political reform.

Soon after taking power, he admitted to National Geographic: "My father never talked to me about politics."

The first year of Assad’s presidency was dubbed the "Syrian Spring".

During this time he implemented anti-corruption policies and released political prisoners convicted during his father's regime.

Assad's administration, however, was filled with hardliners who controlled the country's military and are believed to have steered him away from reforms.

What has he said about chemical weapons?

Bashar al-Assad and his government have denied claims of a chemical attack on civilians.

Syria’s key ally Russia said it has "irrefutable evidence" that the incident was "staged" with the help of the UK."

Assad denied involvement in any previous chemical atrocities on his people, adding that if the United States had evidence against him they should produce it.

Assad’s government had admitted to possessing chemical weapons as early as July 2012.

Who is Bashar al-Assad’s wife and do they have children?

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's wife was born Asma Akhras on August 11, 1975, in Acton, West London.

Her parents are both Sunni Muslims from Homs, the Syrian city located near the air base bombed on April 9, 2018.

Asma was raised in London and attended Twyford Church of England high school and Queen’s College London.

In 1996, Asma graduated university with a degree in Computer Science and French Literature.

She is fluent in French, Spanish, Arabic and English.

On leaving education, she went into banking – working at Deutsche Bank Group as a hedge funds analyst.

Two years later, she was hired by J.P Morgan, working as an investment banker in London and New York.

At the time, she was already dating Assad after meeting him while on a family holiday in Syria.

A month before their "secret" wedding in 2000, she quit her job with no explanation.



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It was reported Asma gave up an opportunity to earn an MBA from Harvard when she married the new Syrian president.

At the time of her marriage, he was 35 and she was 25. The couple have three children.

Hafez, named after Assad’s father, was born in 2001, daughter Zein was born in 2003 and son Karim in 2004.

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