Bashar al-Assad ( بشار الأسد, Baššār al-Asad; born 11 September 1965) is the President of the Syrian Arab Republic, Regional Secretary of the Ba'ath Party, and the son of former President Hafez al-Assad. Al-Assad is a controversial figure both in Syria and Internationally. He has been criticized for his disregard for human rights, economic lapses, sponsorship of terrorism, and corruption. Al-Assad is an outspoken critic of the United States, Palestine and Israel.
His family has filled security organs with loyal members of his own religious group with the purpose of retaining his power. His military, ruling elite, and secret police are closely interweaved.
Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus, on 11 September 1965. Initially Bashar had few political aspirations. Hafez al-Assad had been grooming Bashar's older brother, Basil al-Assad, to be the future president. Bashar studied ophthalmology at Damascus University 1988 and arrived in London in 1992 to continue his studies. He was recalled in 1994 to join the Syrian army after Basil's death in an automobile accident. Bashar entered the military academy at Homs, north of Damascus, following the death of Basil, and was propelled through the ranks to become a colonel in January 1999. The accident made Bashar his father's new heir apparent. When the elder Assad died in 2000, Bashar was appointed leader of the Baath-Party and the Army and was elected president unopposed with what the regime claimed to be a massive popular support (97.2% of the votes), after the Majlis Al Sha'ab (Parliament) swiftly voted to lower the minimum age for candidates from 40 to 34 (Assad's age when he was elected). On 27 May 2007 Bashar was approved president for another seven-year term, with the official result of 97.6% of the votes in a referendum without another candidate.
Assad stands about 189 cm (6 ft 2 in). He speaks English fluently and also speaks casual conversational French, having studied at the Franco-Arab al-Hurriyah school in Damascus, before going on to medical school at the University of Damascus Faculty of Medicine. He completed his ophthalmology residency training in Tishreen Military Hospital of Damascus and subsequently went on to receive subspecialty training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. He could not finish his formal training due to the unexpected death of his brother. Bashar was a staff colonel in the Syrian military.
In December 2000, Assad married Asma Assad, née Akhras, a Syrian Sunni Muslim from Acton (west London) whom he met in the United Kingdom, where she was born and raised. On 3 December 2001, they became the parents of their first-born child, named Hafez after his late grandfather. Zein was born on 5 November 2003, and Karim on 16 December 2004.