Remembering Bashar Al-Assad becoming President of Syria
July 17, 2020 at 8:52 am (ME Monitor)
On 17 July, 2000, Bashar Al-Assad assumed the office of the presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic. A shy and largely unknown figure, in his inaugural address to parliament Al-Assad called upon all Syrian citizens to participate in the “development” and “modernisation” of the country. However, hopes that the new President would usher in an era of reform were short-lived; within a year of assuming office, civil society activists hoping to open Syria up to human rights, democracy, and free speech were imprisoned. The repression at the beginning of his presidency would come to characterise his rule.
What: Bashar Al Assad becomes President of Syria
Where: Damascus, Syria
When: 17 July 2000
The story of Bashar Al-Assad’s ascension to power is not unlike something out of a Shakespearean play. He was not supposed to inherit the role. As the second-born son of Syria’s brutal leader Hafez Al-Assad, who ran the Mediterranean country with an iron fist and extensive secret police network, Bashar was destined for a life in relative obscurity. His older brother Bassel was first in line to replace their father, a role for which he had spent most of his life preparing.
After graduating as a doctor from Damascus University in 1988, Bashar Al-Assad moved to London to study ophthalmology and was training at the Western Eye Hospital when, in January 1994, he was whisked back to Syria after Bassel had been killed in a car accident. His brother’s death meant that he was now next in line and his father began preparing him for the role of president. This included a role in charge of the Syrian army in Lebanon.
Middle East expert Eyal Zisser on Syrian President’s reign over the past 20 years. Jul 16, 2020.