CNN Editorial Research
Here’s a look at the life of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Birth date: September 11, 1965
Birth place: Damascus, Syria
Father: Hafez Assad, late Syrian President
Mother: Anisa Makhlouf al-Assad
Marriage: Asma (Akhras) al-Assad (2000-present)
Children: Karim, 2004; Zein, 2003; Hafez, 2001
Education: University of Damascus, Medicine, 1988; Ophthalmology residency, London, 1992-1994
Military service: Syrian Army, 1999, Colonel
Religion: Alawite Muslim
1994 – Syrian President Hafez Assad’s oldest son and heir apparent, Basel, dies in a car accident. Second son Bashar, is called back from medical training in Britain and is groomed to take over his father’s role as president.
1999 – Assad becomes a colonel in the Syrian army.
June 10, 2000 – President Hafez Assad dies of a heart attack after 29 years in office.
July 10, 2000 – Assad is elected unopposed as president of Syria.
April 2006 – Assad meets with the head of a United Nations panel investigating the 2005 assassination of former Lebanese premier Rafik Hariri.
May 29, 2007 – Runs unopposed for president and is elected to a second seven-year term.
October 14, 2008 – Assad signs a decree establishing diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon.
April 21, 2011 – In response to Arab Spring protests, Assad lifts the country’s 48-year-old state of emergency law. The law, which went into effect in 1963, restricted freedom of speech and gave the government broad power to detain people for perceived threats to national security.
May 18, 2011 – The United States imposes sanctions against Assad and six other senior Syrian officials. The Treasury Department details the sanctions by saying, “As a result of this action, any property in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons in which the individuals listed in the Annex have an interest is blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them.”
May 19, 2011 – Assad is harshly criticized in a speech by US President Barack Obama. Obama says Syrians have displayed “courage in demanding a transition to democracy [but Assad’s regime] has chosen the path of murder and the mass arrests of its citizens…President Assad now has a choice: He can lead that transition, or get out of the way.”
August 18, 2011 – Both the United States and the European Union call for Assad to step down. US authorities also impose new economic sanctions against Damascus, freezing Syrian government assets in the United States, barring Americans from making new investments in Syria and prohibiting any US transactions relating to Syrian petroleum products, among other things.
October 10, 2011 – A statement issued after a meeting attended by all 27 foreign ministers in the European Union condemns “in the strongest possible terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime,” and declares that Syria’s leader must resign “to allow a political transition to take place in Syria.”
November 14, 2011 – Jordan’s King Abdullah calls on Assad to resign.
November 20, 2011 – In an interview with a British newspaper, Assad warns other countries that military intervention in Syria would have “very dire” repercussions and that his country “will not back down” in the face of international pressure and condemnation.
November 22, 2011 – Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on Assad to resign and warns that he faces the same fate as Benito Mussolini, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Moammar Gadhafi, all leaders killed by their own people.
December 7, 2011 – In an interview with ABC’s Barbara Walters, Assad denies responsibility for the violence in Syria and distances himself from the behavior of his armed forces.
February 3, 2012 – Date of leaked email from Asma al-Assad to a friend discussing the merits of buying a certain pair of shoes, Christian Louboutin crystal-covered pumps for about $7,000. The same day 200 Syrians are reported to have died in Homs.
March 10-11, 2012 – Assad meets twice with UN envoy Kofi Annan to discuss the bloodshed in Syria.
March 23, 2012 – European Union sanctions are placed on Assad’s wife, Asma, his mother, sister and sister-in-law. Their EU assets are frozen and a travel ban prevents them from traveling to any EU country. London-born Asma cannot be barred entry into Britain despite the EU ban.
July 18, 2012 – Syria’s Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat — Assad’s brother-in-law is killed, along with two other regime officials, in an explosion at a national security building in Damascus.
April 17, 2013 – In an interview with Syria state TV network al Ekhbariya, Assad compares the support of rebels in Syria now to the backing of fighters in Afghanistan during their war with Soviet troops in the 1980s. He predicts that the rebel groups will one day turn against the United States and others.
June 3, 2014 – Is reelected with 88.7% of the vote, according to reports on state run television. It’s Syria’s first election since the start of civil war in 2011.
February 10, 2015 – In an interview with the BBC, Assad says his regime is apprised of US-led coalition efforts against ISIS in Syria — not by the Americans, but through third parties such as Iraq. Assad also says that Syria won’t join the international coalition trying to “degrade and destroy” ISIS.
December 1, 2015 – In an interview with Czech TV, Assad says that US-led airstrikes against ISIS have not slowed the terrorist organization, and that ISIS has only recently begun to shrink due to Russia’s direct involvement.
July 9, 2016 – Assad is named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, DC by the family of journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed in 2012 while covering the war in Syria. According to the lawsuit, Colvin was targeted in a rocket attack by Syrian government agents because of her reporting. Colvin and other journalists were tracked by the Syrian regime, the documents say. Days later, during an interview with NBC News, Assad denies that the government was responsible for Colvin’s death. He says she entered the country illegally, putting herself at risk.
April 11, 2017 – Russian president Vladimir Putin claims, without evidence, that a deadly chemical attack on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun was staged to frame Assad and his regime. Putin says that more chemical attacks are being planned by opponents of Assad to provoke action by the United States.
May 31, 2018 – Assad calls on America to leave Syria in an interview with Russia Today. Assad states: “The Americans should leave. Somehow, they’re going to leave. They came to Iraq with no legal basis, and look what happened to them. They have to learn their lesson. Iraq is no exception. Syria is no exception. People will not accept foreigners in this region any more.”
May 28, 2021 – Is reelected with 95.1% of the vote, although the US, UK, France, Germany and Italy issue a joint statement calling it a “fraudulent election.”
March 18, 2022 – Assad arrives in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and meets with Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid al-Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the UAE, and Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed al-Nahyan. This is his first visit to an Arab country since the Syrian civil war began in 2011.
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