Bashar al-Assad’s wife diagnosed with breast cancer

Damascus: The wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is being treated for an early-stage malignant tumour, the office of the Syrian Presidency announced on Wednesday.

The announcement came with a photo of the first lady in loose clothing and trainers, sitting on a chair in a hospital room with an intravenous drip inserted in her left hand.

She was smiling at her husband, President Bashar al-Assad, who sat to her right.

A photograph of the First Lady and Assad was posted on Twitter on Wednesday with the President’s office saying: “With strength, trust and faith… Asma al-Assad begins her preliminary treatment of a malignant breast tumour that was discovered early.

“From the heart, the presidency and the staff wish Asma a speedy recovery,” it read.

The presidency did not specify where the first lady was being treated, but the word “military” was printed on a blanket visible in the picture, indicating she was likely in a government-run military hospital.

Born in 1975, the British-born former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and was seen as the modern side of the Assad dynasty.

She shifted to Syria in 2000 and married former ophthalmologist Assad, just months after he succeeded his father Hafez al-Assad as President, the BBC reported.

She has been in the news for standing by Assad throughout Syria’s seven-year civil war.

In her first comments about the bloodshed in Syria, Asma al-Assad said in 2012: “The President is the President of Syria, not a faction of Syrians, and the First Lady supports him in that role.”

The same year, activists released thousands of private emails purportedly from Assad and his wife apparently showing that the latter continued to buy luxury goods even after the uprising had begun. She was also personally sanctioned by the EU.

Asma al-Assad also rose to prominence on social media during the Syrian war. Her Instagram feed showed images of her cradling children, sitting by the bedside of injured war victims and touring sites with local women.

She did not speak to foreign media again till 2016 when she told Russian state-backed television that she had previously rejected offers of asylum abroad.

Asma, whose father is a cardiologist and whose mother is a diplomat, has two sons and a daughter with Assad.

AFP/IANS inputs