Bashar al Assad: Wikis

Advertisements

Note: Many of our articles have direct quotes from sources you can cite, within the Wikipedia article! This article doesn't yet, but we're working on it! See more info or our list of citable articles.

Encyclopedia

(Redirected to Bashar al-Assad article)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Bashar al-Assad
بشار الأسد


Incumbent
Assumed office 
17 July 2000
Prime Minister Muhammad Mustafa Mero
Muhammad Naji al-Otari
Vice President Farouk al-Sharaa
Najah al-Attar
Preceded by Abdul Halim Khaddam (interim)

Born 11 September 1965 (1965-09-11) (age 44)
Damascus, Syria
Political party ASBP
Spouse(s) Asma Assad
Occupation Ophthalmologist , Politician
Religion Alawi Shia Islam

Dr. Bashar al-Assad (Arabic: 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.

Contents

Early life

Bashar al-Assad was born in Damascus, Syria 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 Syrian army and was elected President unopposed with what the regime claimed to be a massive popular support (97.2% of the votes), after Syria's 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.

Overview of Presidency

The Ba'ath Party remains in control of the parliament, and is constitutionally the "leading party" of the state. Until he became President, Bashar al-Assad was not greatly involved in Syrian politics; his only political role was as head of the Syrian Computer Society, which was mainly in charge of introducing the Internet to Syria in 2001.

Al-Assad was confirmed as President by an unopposed referendum in 2001. He was expected to bring a more liberal approach to the leadership than his father. In an interview he stated that he saw democracy in Syria as 'a tool to a better life' but then argued that it would take time for democracy to come about and that it could not be rushed [1]. At best, politically and economically, Syria life has changed only slightly since 2000. Immediately after he took office a reform movement made cautious advances during the so-called Damascus Spring, and al-Assad seemed to accept this, shutting down the Mezze prison and releasing hundreds of political prisoners. The Damascus Spring, however, ground to an abrupt halt as security crackdowns commenced again within the year.

Billboard with portrait of Assad and the text God protects Syria on the old city wall of Damascus 2006.

In an interview conducted with ABC News [1] he stated: "We don't have such [things as] political prisoners," yet The New York Times reported the arrest of 30 political prisoners in Syria as recently as December 2007.[2]

Economic liberalization in Syria has been limited with industry still heavily state-controlled. However some changes have occurred including the introduction of private banking and the encouragement of foreign involvement, most notably in the oil sector. The need for a diversification of the economy has been pressed for by some[3] as it has been predicted that Syria will change from exporting to having to import oil by 2015. The reliance upon oil is reflected by manufacturing exports representing only 3.1 per cent of Syria’s GDP.[4] These issues are especially relevant as Syria’s population is predicted to more than double to over 34 million by 2050.[5] There have been mild economic sanctions (the Syria Accountability Act) applied by the United States which further complicate the situation. Of major importance are the negotiations for a free trade association agreement with the European Union.

Al-Assad has failed to drastically modernize or liberalize the Syrian public sector. According to Acram al-Bouni, a Syrian journalist, he has used the reliance of a vast amount of the population, al-Bouni estimates 50%, upon employment by the state as a means to maintain power. With a large number of people on the state payroll it is less likely resistance movements will form as income from their employment is, “the only thing they have…They fear change”.[6]

Despite gaining re-election in 2007, al-Assad’s position has been considered by some to have been weakened by the withdrawal of Syrian troops from Lebanon following the ‘Cedar Revolution’ in 2005. There has also been pressure from the US concerning claims that Syria is linked to ‘terrorist’ networks - an argument fact that can only be exacerbated by official Syrian condemnation of the assassination of Imad Mughniyeh, Hezbollah military leader in Damascus on February 12 2008. The Syrian Interior Minister Bassam Abdul-Majeed stated that, "Syria, which condemns this cowardly terrorist act, expresses condolences to the martyr family and to the Lebanese people” [7].

Assad still holds a vast amount of power within Syria and no significant political changes seem forthcoming in the immediate future. Jouejati[8] argues that economic reforms have the potential to lead to political reforms. How the President deals with the expected financial crisis as oil revenues decrease could be key to maintaining his position of power.

Advertisements

Foreign relations

al-Assad with President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev in Sochi on 21 August 2008
Brazilian president Lula da Silva and Bashar al-Assad meeting in Damascus, 2003

The United States, European Union, the March 14 Alliance, Israel, and France accuse Assad of logistically supporting militant groups aimed at Israel and any opposing member to his government. These include most political parties other than Hezbollah, Hamas, and Islamic Jihad.[9]

Assad claimed the United States could "benefit" from the Syrian experience in fighting terrorists like Muslim Brotherhood at the Hama Massacre.[10]

Assad opposed the 2003 invasion of Iraq, despite a long-standing animosity between the Syrian and Iraqi governments, a decision that reflected the will of the majority of his people in his country. Assad used Syria's seat in one of rotating positions on the United Nations Security Council to try and prevent the invasion of Iraq.[11] The assassination of former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and the accusation of Syrian involvement, and support for anti-Israeli groups, helped precipitate a crisis in relations with the United States.

Assad was criticized for Syria's presence in Lebanon (which ended in 2005), and the US put Syria under sanctions partly because of this. He threatened many members of the Lebanese parliament in order to enforce the illegal accession of the pro-Syrian General Émile Lahoud to the Lebanese presidency in 1998.

In the Arab world, Assad has mended relations with the Palestine Liberation Organization. But relations with many Arab states, in particular Saudi Arabia, have been deteriorating. This is in part due to Assad's continued intervention in Lebanon, and in part due to his alliance with Iran.

However, during the Pope John Paul II's funeral in 2005 Assad shook hands with the Israeli president Moshe Katsav.

Around the time of the 2008 South Ossetia war, Assad made an official visit to Russia. In an interview with the Russian TV channel Vesti, he asserted that one cannot separate the events in the Caucasus from the US presence in Iraq, which he condemned as a "...direct threat to [Syria's] security...".

2005 Lebanon crisis

The 2005 Lebanon crisis began with the assassination of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in February 2005, which has been blamed on Syria in the media. Assad has questioned the basis of such criticism. The main basis of the accusation is that the assassination removed an anti-Syrian political figure in an attempt to maintain influence. However, Assad argued that Syria's gradual withdrawal of troops from Lebanon, beginning in 2000, was precipitated as a result of the event.[12] Syria remains influential in Lebanon, however, and economic activity is strongly interdependent.

Assad has repeatedly condemned the Hariri assassination. He strongly denies any Syrian involvement and has promised to extradite or punish anyone found guilty of participating in the conspiracy to kill Hariri.[citation needed]

2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict

In a speech about the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, on August 15, 2006, Bashar al-Assad said that Israel had suffered a defeat in that war and that Hezbollah had "hoisted the banner of victory" and hailed its actions as a "successful resistance" - a view that was largely accepted by media and regional analysts.[13] He claimed that Arab resistance was growing stronger, and warned Israel that "your warplanes, rockets, and your atomic bomb will not protect you in the future". He called Israel an "enemy," with whom no peace could be achieved as long as they and their allies (especially the U.S.) support the practice of preemptive war. In the same speech, he also called Arab leaders that have criticized Hezbollah "half-men."

2007-present Israeli Peace Talks

In April, 2008, Assad told a Qatari newspaper that Syria and Israel had been discussing a peace treaty for a year, with Turkey as a go-between. This was confirmed in May, 2008, by a spokesman for Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert. As well as a peace treaty, the future of the Golan Heights is being discussed. Assad was quoted in the The Guardian as telling the Qatari paper:

...there would be no direct negotiations with Israel until a new US president takes office. The US was the only party qualified to sponsor any direct talks, [Assad] told the paper, but added that the Bush administration "does not have the vision or will for the peace process. It does not have anything."[14]

The Assad Family

The Assad family.

The Assad family are members of the minority Alawite sect, and members of that group have been prominent in the governmental hierarchy and army since 1963 when the Baath Party first came to power. Their origins are to be found in the Latakia region of north-west Syria. Bashar's family is originally from Qardaha, just east of Latakia. "Al Assad (or Asad)" means "the lion" in Arabic.

Officially a Republic, Syria is under Emergency Law since 1963 and governed by the Baath Party.

Family connections are presently an important part of Syrian politics. Several close family members of Hafez al-Assad have held positions within the government since his rise to power. Most of the al-Assad and Makhlouf families have also grown tremendously wealthy[citation needed], and parts of that fortune have reached their Alawite tribe in Qardaha and its surroundings[citation needed].

The following is a list of some of Bashar's most prominent relatives:

Personal life

Bashar and his wife Asma Assad in Moscow.

Assad stands about 189 cm (6 ft 2 in) with blue eyes. He speaks English from an intermediate to an advanced level 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 the Military Hospital of Latakia and subsequently went on to receive subspecialty training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London.[15] He could not finish his formal training due to the unexpected death of his brother. Bashar was a staff colonel in the Syrian military.[16]

Assad is married to Asma (Emma) Assad, née Akhras,[17] a Syrian Sunni Muslim from Acton (west London) whom he met in the United Kingdom, where she was born and raised.[18] They married in December 2000. On December 3, 2001, they became the parents of their first-born child, named Hafez after his late grandfather. Zein was born on November 5, 2003, and Karim on December 16, 2004.

See also

Further reading

  • Bashar Al-Assad (Major World Leaders) by Susan Muaddi Darraj, (June 2005, Chelsea House Publications) ISBN 0-7910-8262-8 for young adults
  • Syria Under Bashar Al-Asad: Modernisation and the Limits of Change by Volker Perthes, (2004, Oxford University Press) ISBN 0-19-856750-2 (Adelphi Papers #366)
  • Bashar's First Year: From Ophthalmology to a National Vision (Research Memorandum) by Yossi Baidatz, (2001, Washington Institute for Near East Policy) ISBN B0006RVLNM
  • Syria: Revolution From Above by Raymond Hinnebusch (Routledge; 1st edition, August 2002) ISBN 0-415-28568-2
  • Bashar al-Assad and John F. Kennedy, Forward Magazine (Syria) [1]
  • Assad: We too were not very happy with Annapolis, Forward Magazine (Syria) [2]
  • Seven years of Bashar al-Assad’s rule 2000-2007, Forward Magazine (Syria) [3]

References

External links

Political offices
Preceded by
Abdulhalim Khaddam
Acting
President of Syria
2000–present
Incumbent

Advertisements






Got something to say? Make a comment.
Your name
Your email address
Message