AL ASSAD, Bashar

Son of Hafez Al-Assad, who was President of Syria from November 1970 until June 2000. Born in Damascus on 11 September 1965, Bashar studied ophthalmology in England. After the accidental death in 1994 of his brother Bassel (formerly designated as heir apparent to his father, although never officially) he was called to take over his job as commander of the Syrian army’s armoured division.

Since he was called back to Syria, the government endeavoured, through a vast press campaign, to increase Bashar Al-Assad’s popularity among the Syrian people so as to ensure, in a near or distant future, his election as president. According to government sources, this programmed succession to the Syrian presidency was seen as « the best guarantee for the pursuit of the President’s policy and the maintenance of stability in Syria ».

Appointed Colonel of the Syrian army in 1999, Bashar Al-Assad was progressively involved in state affairs. On different occasions, he was sent as a personal representative of the President for discussions with heads of State such as Emile Lahoud of Lebanon and Jacques Chirac of France.

It was expected that Bachar al-Assad would become a member of the –Syrian- “regional command” of the Baath party at the Party Congress which was to take place on 17 June. This process was accelerated dramatically on 10 June 2000 with the sudden death of his father, Hafez Al-Assad. The same day, the Parliament amended the Constitution, setting at 34 years, instead of 40 as previously, the minimum age required to become president. The Parliament, on 25 June, nominated him for the Presidency, and this choice was confirmed, for a seven year mandate, by the referendum held on 10 July 2000.

Despite embodying the continuity of a stable totalitarian state set up by his father, Bachar Al-Assad, his youth and somewhat modernist options (notably in the field of IT) arose some hopes about a possible democratisation of the system. Informal discussion forums set up by groups of intellectuals – but without any popular base- were created post June 2000 in Damascus and other Syrian towns. Issues such as the democratisation of the State and the end of the state of emergency (in force since 1963) were addressed in these forums. However, encouraged by the old Baathist guard, Bachar Al-Assad put and end to the so called “Damascus Spring” in February 2001by declaring that “some red lines must not be trespassed” and having some dozens of intellectuals arrested. Since then, Bachar Al Assad no longer personnifies the possible democratisation of the Baath regime.

In 2003 Assad disaproves of the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. military. On February 14, 2004 Rafik Hariri is assassinated, heavy suspicions are held on the Syrian government, strengthened by the testimony of former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam who accused the current president to have threatened Hariri shortly before his death.

In 2008 Bashar al-Assad came back on the international scene with the project of Union for the Mediterranean launched by Nicolas Sarkozy. He is invited to the Union of Mediterranean on July 13, 2008 despite the cooling of Franco-Syrian relations imposed by President Jaques Chirac. He is as well invited to attend the parade on national French holyday. The presence of Al Bachar on such a symbolic Human Rights day has created numerous controversies.

Shortly before Al Bachar had claimed he was ready to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and to install a Syrian embassy there. Meanwhile, the Syrian president has expressed the desire to see France alongside the United States to contribute to a future peace agreement in Israel and Syria.

Son of Hafez Al-Assad, who was President of Syria from November 1970 until June 2000. Born in Damascus on 11 September 1965, Bashar studied ophthalmology in England. After the accidental death in 1994 of his brother Bassel (formerly designated as heir apparent to his father, although never officially) he was called to take over his job as commander of the Syrian army’s armoured division.Since he was called back to Syria, the government endeavoured, through a vast press campaign, to increase Bashar Al-Assad’s popularity among the Syrian people so as to ensure, in a near or distant future, his election as president. According to government sources, this programmed succession to the Syrian presidency was seen as « the best guarantee for the pursuit of the President’s policy and the maintenance of stability in Syria ».
Appointed Colonel of the Syrian army in 1999, Bashar Al-Assad was progressively involved in state affairs. On different occasions, he was sent as a personal representative of the President for discussions with heads of State such as Emile Lahoud of Lebanon and Jacques Chirac of France.
It was expected that Bachar al-Assad would become a member of the –Syrian- “regional command” of the Baath party at the Party Congress which was to take place on 17 June. This process was accelerated dramatically on 10 June 2000 with the sudden death of his father, Hafez Al-Assad. The same day, the Parliament amended the Constitution, setting at 34 years, instead of 40 as previously, the minimum age required to become president. The Parliament, on 25 June, nominated him for the Presidency, and this choice was confirmed, for a seven year mandate, by the referendum held on 10 July 2000.
Despite embodying the continuity of a stable totalitarian state set up by his father, Bachar Al-Assad, his youth and somewhat modernist options (notably in the field of IT) arose some hopes about a possible democratisation of the system. Informal discussion forums set up by groups of intellectuals – but without any popular base- were created post June 2000 in Damascus and other Syrian towns. Issues such as the democratisation of the State and the end of the state of emergency (in force since 1963) were addressed in these forums. However, encouraged by the old Baathist guard, Bachar Al-Assad put and end to the so called “Damascus Spring” in February 2001by declaring that “some red lines must not be trespassed” and having some dozens of intellectuals arrested. Since then, Bachar Al Assad no longer personnifies the possible democratisation of the Baath regime.
In 2003 Assad disaproves of the invasion of Iraq by the U.S. military. On February 14, 2004 Rafik Hariri is assassinated, heavy suspicions are held on the Syrian government, strengthened by the testimony of former Syrian Vice President Abdel Halim Khaddam who accused the current president to have threatened Hariri shortly before his death.
In 2008 Bashar al-Assad came back on the international scene with the project of Union for the Mediterranean launched by Nicolas Sarkozy. He is invited to the Union of Mediterranean on July 13, 2008 despite the cooling of Franco-Syrian relations imposed by President Jaques Chirac. He is as well invited to attend the parade on national French holyday. The presence of Al Bachar on such a symbolic Human Rights day has created numerous controversies. Shortly before Al Bachar had claimed he was ready to establish diplomatic relations with Lebanon, and to install a Syrian embassy there. Meanwhile, the Syrian president has expressed the desire to see France alongside the United States to contribute to a future peace agreement in Israel and Syria.