Bashar Hafez al-Assad (Arabic: بشار حافظ الأسد Baššār Ḥāfiẓ al-ʾAsad, Levantine pronunciation: [baʃˈʃaːr ˈħaːfezˤ elˈʔasad]; English pronunciation ; born 11 September 1965) is a Syrian politician who has been the President of Syria since 17 July 2000. In addition, he is commander-in-chief of the Syrian Armed Forces and Regional Secretary of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party’s branch in Syria. His father, Hafez al-Assad, was also President of Syria from 1971 to 2000.
Born and raised in Damascus, Assad graduated from the medical school of Damascus University in 1988 and began to work as a doctor in the Syrian Army. Four years later, he attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital in London, specialising in ophthalmology. In 1994, after his elder brother Bassel died in a car crash, Bashar was recalled to Syria to take over Bassel’s role as heir apparent. He entered the military academy, taking charge of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon in 1998.
Political scientists have characterized the Assad family’s rule of Syria as a personalist dictatorship. On 10 July 2000, Assad was elected as President, succeeding his father, who died in office a month prior. In the 2000 and subsequent 2007 election, he received 99.7% and 97.6% support, respectively, in non-competitive, non-democratic elections. On 16 July 2014, Assad was sworn in for another seven-year term after winning another non-competitive, non-democratic election. The election was held only in areas controlled by the Syrian government during the country’s ongoing civil war and was criticized by the UN, the Syrian opposition and its Western countries, while Syria’s allies stated that the election was “free and fair”. The Assad government describes itself as secular, while some political scientists have claimed that the government exploits sectarian tensions in the country and relies upon the Alawite minority to remain in power.Previously seen by many states as a potential reformer, the United States, the European Union and the majority of the Arab League called for Assad’s resignation from the presidency after he ordered crackdowns and military sieges on Arab Spring protesters, which led to the Syrian Civil War. During the Syrian Civil War, an inquiry by the United Nations reported finding evidence which implicated Assad in war crimes. The UN and international chemical weapons inspectors also concluded that the Assad regime has been behind chemical weapons attacks against civilians. In June 2014, Assad was included in a list of war crimes indictments of government officials and rebels handed to the International Criminal Court. Assad has rejected allegations of war crimes and criticised the American-led intervention in Syria for attempting regime change.