Syria’s First Lady Diagnosed With Leukemia, Presidency Says

Syria’s First Lady Diagnosed With Leukemia, Presidency Says
Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, meets with humanitarian and business groups in Damascus, Syria, on April 7, 2021. (SANA/handout via Reuters)

The Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s wife, Asma al-Assad, is undergoing treatment for acute myeloid leukemia, according to a statement from the Syrian government.

Mrs. al-Assad was diagnosed with the disease “after presenting with several symptoms and following a comprehensive series of medical tests and examinations,” the statement said.

She will go through a special treatment protocol that requires living in isolation to prevent infection.

As such, Mrs. al-Assad will stop her public appearances.

According to the Mayo Clinic, Acute myeloid leukemia is a quickly progressing cancer of the blood and the bone marrow—the place where blood cells are produced.

Mrs. al-Assad had become known for supporting her husband’s diplomatic efforts with her own charity and public work.

Born in the UK to Syrian parents, she quit her JP Morgan investment job to go to Syria and marry the then-newly named president Bashar al-Assad in 2000.

Mrs. al-Assad has been criticized for continuing her charitable work even when Syria was going through the brutal Syrian war, which ravaged the country and forced about half of its population to flee to other countries, especially non-Muslim European countries, despite that Syrians are Muslim.

The Syrian war started as protests against the al-Assad presidency during the period of uprising in Arab countries in 2011—called Arab Spring—demanding more freedom from authoritarian regimes. After the protests in Syria, many other groups joined and started a civil war.

The initial protests were met with a brutal clampdown by the Assad regime.

The announcement of Mrs. al-Assad’s diagnosis came as her influential NGO, the Syrian Trust for Development, was putting on its annual Damascene Rose Festival, which celebrates the rose harvest season.

Prior to her diagnosis, the first lady had been widely expected to attend the festivities.

Syria and Lebanon on Monday announced three days of national mourning for the Iranian president and foreign minister, who were killed in a helicopter crash overnight near the Azerbaijan border.

Mr. al-Assad and Lebanese officials offered their condolences for the deaths.

NTD Photo
Syria’s first lady Asma al-Assad (2nd L), listens to her husband, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as he speaks to the media after they voted at a polling station during the Presidential elections in the town of Douma, Syria, on May 26, 2021. (Hassan Ammar/AP Photo)

France Charges Top Syrian Officials With War Crimes

A Paris court this week started to examine whether three top Syrian intelligence officials were responsible for the arrest and death of a father and son and whether the al-Assad government committed a war crime.

In 2013, Syrian soldiers arrested a father and his son, both with dual Syrian and French nationalities, during the hostilities of the civil war.

Patrick Dabbagh, a 20-year-old psychology student at Damascus University, and his father, Mazen Dabbagh, were declared dead in 2018 when Syrian authorities sent their family their death certificates.

The three accused Syrian officials are the most senior to go on trial in a European court.

The four-day hearings that started Tuesday are expected to bring chilling allegations of torture and arbitrary detention against the Assad government, perpetrated during the Syrian war, which is now entering its 14th year.

The three intelligence officials are accused of crimes against humanity.

NTD Photo
Clemence Bectarte, the Dabbagh family lawyer, answers reporters at a courtroom in Paris, on May 21, 2024. (Michel Euler/AP Photo)

The French trial comes as Mr. al-Assad has been regaining an aura of international respectability, starting to shed his longtime status as a pariah that stemmed from the violence unleashed on his opponents. Human rights groups that are parties to the French case hope it will refocus attention on alleged atrocities.

Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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