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Bashar Hafez al-Assad is the President of Syria, General Secretary of the Ba'ath Party and Regional Secretary of the party's branch in Syria. He has served as President since 2000, when he succeeded his father, Hafez al-Assad, who led Syria for 30 years until his death. Al-Assad graduated from the medical school of Damascus University 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 was killed in a car crash, Bashar was recalled to Syria to take over Bassel's role as heir apparent. He entered the military academy, taking charge of the Syrian occupation of Lebanon in 1998. In December 2000, Assad married Asma Assad, née Akhras. Al-Assad was reconfirmed by the national electorate as President of Syria in 2000 and 2007, after the People's Council of Syria had voted to propose the incumbent 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 pro-rebel protesters amid recent civil war, described by some commentators as related to the wider "Arab Spring" movement. The domestic largely Sunni Syrian opposition, the United States, Canada, the European Union states and the members of the Arab League have subsequently called for al-Assad's resignation from the presidency. He belongs to the minority Alawite sect and his government has been described as secular. (via Freebase)