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Bashar al-Assad wasborn on September 11th 1965, in Damascus. He is the 3rd son of Hafez al-Assad, the former Syrian President, and Aniseh al-Assad. His father comes from a poor family of Alawite background, a Shia sect that makes up between five and 10 per cent of the population in a predominantly Sunni country (74 per cent). He became an important man in the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba’ath Party in the 1970 Corrective, thus installing himself as president of Syria. Bashar al-Assad was said to be a quiet and reserved child, the contrary of his siblings. He went to the Arab-French al-Hurriya School for primary and secondary school;therefore he is now able to speak a basic conversational French. In 1982, he graduated from high school and started medicine studies at Damascus University. In 1984, he went to London to begin postgraduate training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital. This is where he met his future wife, Asma al-Akhras, a British citizen of Syrian origin, from Acton, London. In 1988, Bashar al-Assad graduated from medical school and began working as an army doctor in the biggest military hospital “Tishrin”. In December 2000, Bashar married Asma al-Assad née Akshras. From this union three childrenwere born: Hafez (4th December 2001), Zein (5th November 2003) and Karim (16th December 2004).
Bashar al-Assad wasn’t at first predestined to have a carrier in politics. His father had put all his hopes in his older brother, Bassel, to be his successor at the head of Syria. However in 1994, Bassel died in a car accident. Bashar was immediately recalled to Syria by his father to make him his new heir. During the six final years of his life, Hafez prepared Bashar to pick up the torch after his death. Preparations for a smooth transition were made on three levels. First, Bashar was introduced in the military and security sector, so that he would be respected and obeyed. Second,Bashar started to get known by the public, by his folk but also by foreign countries. For example, he visited the Lebanese president Emile Lahoud in 1999 and in November of the same year, he was received by the French President Jacques Chirac at the Elysée. And lastly, Bashar became familiar with the mechanisms of running the country.
As the president Hafez al-Assad died, the Parliament amended the Constitution to lower the minimum age of presidency’s application, which shifted from 40 to 34 years old. Two days later, Bashar al-Assad was promoted General-in-Chief of the Syrian Army Forces by the Vice-President Khaddam. He was proposed by the Parliament to be the next President on June the 25th, 2000. He promises to implement economic and political reforms in Syria. He was elected President of the Arabic Republic of Syria by a referendum on July the 10th 2000, the Syrian folk saw in hims reformer who would democratize the country, because he is fluent in English and loves the new technologies. After his election, the regime is being liberalized timidly, this is called the “Damascus Spring”. Hundreds of political prisoners were released, and several forums gathering intellectuals talking about the democratization of Syria appeared. However, Bashar stopped this liberal movement, declaring that there are limits not to cross, because of pressures from the old part of the regime, in particular Khaddam. A lot of intellectuals were arrested. The economy is not really free in Syria; interventionism is still extremely present.
Despite the tense relation between Syria and Israel, Assad asked for the recovery of the peace negotiations, to claim back the Golan Heights, occupied by Israel since 1967. He is also accused by the United States and Israel of actively supporting army groups like the Hezbollah, the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad. Assad didn’t want the American intervention in Iraq in 2003, using the Syrian seat at the United Nations Security Council. He brought on him the wrath of Washington and Paris when the Lebanese Prime Minister, Rafiq Hariri, was assassinated and regarding the supposed accommodation of Palestinians in Syria. In the Arabic World, Assad has restarted good relations with the PLO and has tried to maintain a good contact with the conservative Arab Countries. He was elected a second time President of the Republic by a referendum on May 27th 2007, by 97, 62 % of the votes casts. He started the withdrawal of the Syrian Occupation Forces in Lebanon, under international pressure. In June 2001, the majority of the troupes withdrew from Beirut. A large part of the Lebanese population is angry with the Lebanese Prime Minister’s assassination. Syria is quickly accused. Because of this, at the end of April, there were no more Syrian Forces in Lebanon. On December 30th, Khaddam announces his resignation and goes to Paris with his family. On January 2006, he accuses Bashar Al-Assad of having threatened Rafiq Hariri some months before his assassination, and also of being at the head of a Mafiosi system in Syria and Lebanon. Assad was also a partisan of Nicolas Sarkozy’s project of Union for the Mediterranean, and became an important partner. He participated in the Summit held on the 13-14th July 2008 in Paris. He was also invited to the French podium to watch the military parade on the 14th July, France’s Independence Day.
Since March 2001, a huge wave of popular social and political contestant, unprecedented, formed against Assad’s regime. These protests were part of the rebellions which occurred in several Arabic Countries, called the “Arabic Spring”. Like in Tunisia or also in Egypt, the demonstrators are asking for the departureof their leader. Since the 18th of March 2011, demonstrations of several hundred of persons took place in the Syrian cities of Damascus, Homs, Banias and mostly in Deraa. Several symbolic buildings were burned(Seat of the Baas’ Party, Tribunals). Bashar al-Assad and his collaborators ordered the repression of these demonstrations, causing hundreds of deaths and thousands of injured, military and civilians (insurgents or not). Dozens of opponents armed or not, were arrested. Since March 25th, despite the repression and concessions from the government, the movement spread to the whole country. Demonstrations pro-Assad were also organized in return. Because the demonstrations were violently oppressed with a blood shed, the movement started to become an armed revolution. Some soldiers of the Army joined the Free Syrian Army. Heavy weapons were used, and helicopters and planes to bombard cities. On July 2012, the international comity of the Red Cross and the Red Croissant officially declared Syria in a state of Civil War. On November 2012, the provisional balance sheet is estimated at 40 000 deaths by the opposition. Bashar Al-Assad contests this state of Civil War and describes himself as a defender of a stable and secular nation, facing a terrorism wave that is supported financially, militarily and humanly by certain foreign powers.
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