Syrian President Assad’s wife Asma, 42, begins treatment for breast cancer as dictator husband accompanies her to hospital
- Asma Assad was born to Syrian parents in London and lived there until aged 25
- She moved to Syria after meeting Assad and marriage was announced in 2000
- Syrian government today posted photo of her and Assad in unspecified hospital
- A statement said that a ‘malignant tumor’ was discovered in its early stages
Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has started treatment for early stage breast cancer.
An official photo posted to Facebook showed President Bashar Assad smiling next to his British-born wife in hospital as she sat with an IV in her left arm.
A short statement posted with the photo said a ‘malignant tumor’ was discovered in its early stages and wished her a speedy recovery.
This photo posted on the official Facebook page of the Syrian Presidency, shows Syrian President Bashar Assad sitting next to his wife Asma Assad with an IV in her left arm
The couple are pictured here at a summit in Paris in 2008. Their marriage was announced in 2000
The government did not reveal where she is being treated.
Such public announcements are uncommon in the Arab world, where cancer is considered a taboo.
Asma Assad’s parents are from the central province of Homs but she was born and raised in London before moving back to Syria after meeting the president.
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The two have been married for 18 years and have three children, Hafez, Zein and Karim.
The couple’s marriage was announced by state media six months after he assumed the presidency in July 2000 following the death of his father Hafez.
The former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and was seen as the modern side of the Assad dynasty.
Syrian President Bashar Assad casts his ballot next to his wife Asma Assad in 2012
Mrs Assad uses her Instagram account to regularly post propaganda images such as this one of her husband with government forces
This is another picture of Assad with government forces that Mrs Assad posted on Instagram
Before the crisis began in March 2011, Mrs Assad (pictured with her husband) was the subject of flattering profiles in Vogue and other fashion magazines
Since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011, Mrs Assad has mostly been seen in public receiving families of fallen soldiers
Since Syria’s civil war broke out in 2011, Mrs Assad has mostly been seen in public receiving families of fallen soldiers, or hosting people wounded in the conflict, now in its eighth year, which has killed more than 400,000 people.
Before the crisis began in March 2011, she was the subject of flattering profiles in Vogue and other fashion magazines.
In 2009, The Sun introduced its readers to the ‘sexy Brit’ who was ‘bringing Syria in from the cold’.
As Syria’s conflict worsened, the first lady became a target of contempt for many opposition supporters who saw her as whitewashing atrocities carried out by the government.
The Syrian Civil War
The war is an ongoing multi-sided armed conflict in Syria between the Syrian Arab Republic led by President Bashar al-Assad and various forces opposing both the government and each other in varying combinations.
It started when Assad harshly clamped down on 2011 Arab Spring protests.
Estimates put to the total death toll so far at around 500,000 people.
Assad, supported by Russian and Iran and opposed by a US-led coalition, has been accused by the west of bombing hospitals and using illegal Sarin gas on his own people, which he denies.
Assad said in an interview in June with Russia’s state-controlled NTV television channel that his government got rid of all its chemical weapons in 2013 and that allegations of their use were a pretext for invasion by other countries.
A U.N. investigative body determined the government used the nerve agent sarin in an aerial attack on the rebel-held town of Khan Sheikhoun in April 2017 that killed about 100 people and affected about 200 others.
The U.S. and its allies also blamed government forces for a sarin gas attack on the suburbs of Damascus in 2013 that killed around 1,000 people.
When her husband faced calls to be tried as a war criminal, Mrs Assad was widely criticised for saying accusations against him were ‘propaganda’ against the regime.
She even used her Instagram account, where she regularly posts propaganda images of her husband with government forces, to accuse the west of lying over his use of Sarin gas on his own people.
On her Instagram account, she wrote in Arabic: ‘The presidency of the Syrian Arab Republic affirms that what America has done is an irresponsible act that only reflects a short-sightedness, a narrow horizon, a political and military blindness to reality, and a naive pursuit of a frenzied false propaganda campaign that fueled the regime’s arrogance.’
Mrs Assad’s parents, both Sunni Muslims, moved from Syria to London in the Fifties so that her father, who is now based at the Cromwell Hospital and in Harley Street, could get the best possible education and medical training.
Though a Muslim, she was educated at a Church of England school in Ealing before attending a private girls’ day school — Queen’s College, Harley Street.
After studying computer science and French literature at King’s College London, Mrs Assad worked as a banker at JP Morgan in the Nineties when she met her future husband.
At the time, Assad was training at a hospital in London to become an eye surgeon.
Those who knew her said that, given that she spent the first 25 years of her life in London, Mrs Assad had liberal western values.
In 2012, she was banned from travelling to Europe and last year MPs called for her British citizenship to be revoked.
Nadhim Zahawi, a Conservative MP on the Commons foreign affairs committee, said: ‘The time has come where we go after [President] Assad in every which way, including people like Mrs Assad, who is very much part of the propaganda machine that is committing war crimes.’
Syrian President Bashar Assad and his wife Asma arrive for a formal dinner after a Mediterranean Summit meeting in 2008
WHAT IS BREAST CANCER, HOW MANY PEOPLE DOES IT STRIKE AND WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS?
Breast cancer is one of the most common cancers in the world. Each year in the UK there are more than 55,000 new cases, and the disease claims the lives of 11,500 women. In the US, it strikes 266,000 each year and kills 40,000. But what causes it and how can it be treated?
What is breast cancer?
Breast cancer develops from a cancerous cell which develops in the lining of a duct or lobule in one of the breasts.
When the breast cancer has spread into surrounding breast tissue it is called an ‘invasive’ breast cancer. Some people are diagnosed with ‘carcinoma in situ’, where no cancer cells have grown beyond the duct or lobule.
Most cases develop in women over the age of 50 but younger women are sometimes affected. Breast cancer can develop in men though this is rare.
The cancerous cells are graded from stage one, which means a slow growth, up to stage four, which is the most aggressive.
What causes breast cancer?
A cancerous tumour starts from one abnormal cell. The exact reason why a cell becomes cancerous is unclear. It is thought that something damages or alters certain genes in the cell. This makes the cell abnormal and multiply ‘out of control’.
Although breast cancer can develop for no apparent reason, there are some risk factors that can increase the chance of developing breast cancer, such as genetics.
What are the symptoms of breast cancer?
The usual first symptom is a painless lump in the breast, although most breast lumps are not cancerous and are fluid filled cysts, which are benign.
The first place that breast cancer usually spreads to is the lymph nodes in the armpit. If this occurs you will develop a swelling or lump in an armpit.
How is breast cancer diagnosed?
- Initial assessment: A doctor examines the breasts and armpits. They may do tests such as a mammography, a special x-ray of the breast tissue which can indicate the possibility of tumours.
- Biopsy: A biopsy is when a small sample of tissue is removed from a part of the body. The sample is then examined under the microscope to look for abnormal cells. The sample can confirm or rule out cancer.
If you are confirmed to have breast cancer, further tests may be needed to assess if it has spread. For example, blood tests, an ultrasound scan of the liver or a chest x-ray.
How is breast cancer treated?
Treatment options which may be considered include surgery, chemotherapy, radiotherapy and hormone treatment. Often a combination of two or more of these treatments are used.
- Surgery: Breast-conserving surgery or the removal of the affected breast depending on the size of the tumour.
- Radiotherapy: A treatment which uses high energy beams of radiation focussed on cancerous tissue. This kills cancer cells, or stops cancer cells from multiplying. It is mainly used in addition to surgery.
- Chemotherapy: A treatment of cancer by using anti-cancer drugs which kill cancer cells, or stop them from multiplying
- Hormone treatments: Some types of breast cancer are affected by the ‘female’ hormone oestrogen, which can stimulate the cancer cells to divide and multiply. Treatments which reduce the level of these hormones, or prevent them from working, are commonly used in people with breast cancer.
How successful is treatment?
The outlook is best in those who are diagnosed when the cancer is still small, and has not spread. Surgical removal of a tumour in an early stage may then give a good chance of cure.
The routine mammography offered to women between the ages of 50 and 70 mean more breast cancers are being diagnosed and treated at an early stage.
For more information visit breastcancercare.org.uk or www.cancerhelp.org.uk
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