Assad, Bashar al-

Assad, Bashar al- bäshärˈ äl-äsˈsäd [key], 1965–, Syrian political leader, son of Hafez al-Assad. A medical doctor, he left Syria (1992) for an ophthamology residency in London when his elder brother, Basil, his father's designated heir, was killed (1994) in an automobile accident. Assad returned to Syria and was groomed as his father's successor, attending the Homs military academy and attaining (1999) the rank of colonel. Upon his father's death (2000), he was named head of the ruling Ba'ath party and was nominated as president; he was confirmed in the office by referendum (2000, 2005). Assad attempted to modernize Syria and its army, making some moves toward improving the economy, but he also maintained a tight hold on power and sought to maintain Syria's domination over Lebanon. The violent suppression of protests against his regime in 2011 led by 2012 to a brutal, years-long civil war in which the Syrian government was accused of using poison gas against its own people. In 2014 Assad was reelected in balloting that occurred during the civil war; he was reported to have won 89% of the vote, with a 73% turnout. Russia came to Assad's aid in the civil war in September 2015, effectivelly turning the tide in his favor. Assad has maintained power despite the ongoing fighting in the country and the collapse of its economy. In March 2021, it was announced that he and his wife had contracted mild cases of COVID-19.

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