Syrian First Lady Asma al-Assad Diagnosed With Leukaemia

Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma, who recovered from breast cancer in 2019, has been diagnosed with leukemia, the president’s office announced on Tuesday.

“First Lady Asma al-Assad has been diagnosed with acute myeloid leukaemia,” the statement read.

She will follow a “specialised treatment protocol” that includes social separation to avoid infection, according to the statement, and she will “temporarily withdraw from all direct engagements as part of her treatment plan”.

Syria’s first lady announced in 2019 that she was “totally” clear of breast cancer after battling it for a year.

Born in Britain in 1975, the former investment banker positioned herself as a progressive rights campaigner and the modern face of the Assad dynasty before to the country’s terrible civil war in 2011.

Asma frequently accompanies her husband on his rare official excursions overseas, and footage of the presidential pair attending various state-sponsored occasions is widely disseminated in official media.

The first lady was even acclaimed as “A Rose in the Desert” in a now-infamous cover story in the US magazine Vogue before praise turned to condemnation for her support for her husband’s crackdown on pro-democracy protesters.

She established the Syria Trust for Development charity, based in Damascus, which is one of the few such organizations permitted to operate in government-controlled territories.

‘War Profiteer’ 

Critics accuse her of cementing authority over Syria’s economy, with the Syria Report economic newspaper writing, “The humanitarian sector in Syria has become increasingly profitable, especially for sanctioned individuals like Asma.”

In June 2020, the United States imposed sanctions on the first lady and several members of the president’s family and entourage.

Then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that Asma, with the backing of her husband and her own Akhras family, had “become one of Syria’s most notorious war profiteers.”

In 2016, The Guardian discovered that two UN agencies had collaborated with Asma’s Syria Trust charity, investing $8.5 million.

The first lady has two sons and a daughter with Assad. Her father is a cardiologist, while her mother is a diplomat.

Her cancer diagnosis comes as three top security officers are tried in absentia by a Paris court for their involvement in crimes against humanity and war crimes.

It is the first prosecution in France of Assad administration officials, and it centers on their alleged involvement in the murders of two French Syrian citizens, Mazzen Dabbagh and his son Patrick, who were seized in Damascus in 2013.

Since 2011, when Assad’s regime cracked down on anti-government protesters, the Syrian civil war has killed over 500,000 people and displaced millions more.

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