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Bashar Hafez al-Assad is the President of Syria and Regional Secretary of the Syrian-led branch of the Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party. He has served as President since 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who had ruled Syria for 30 years prior to his death. Al-Assad graduated from the medical school of the University of Damascus in 1988, and started to work as a physician in the army. Four years later, he attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital, in London, specializing in ophthalmology. In 1994, after his elder brother Bassel, the heir apparent to their father, was killed in a car crash, Bashar was hastily recalled to Syria to take over Bassel's role. He entered the military academy, and took charge of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in 1998. In December 2000, Assad married Asma Assad, née Akhras. Al-Assad was elected as President of Syria in 2000 and 2007, unopposed each time. Initially seen by the domestic and international community as a potential reformer, this expectation ceased when he ordered a mass crackdown and military sieges on protesters during the Arab Spring, which gave way to the events of the Syrian civil war. The domestic Syrian opposition and large parts of the wider international community have subsequently called for al-Assad's resignation from power. (via Freebase)