Asma al-Assad says she's received 'heartfelt messages' in first video appearance after cancer diagnosis

Asma al-Assad says she's received 'heartfelt messages' in first video appearance after cancer diagnosis
The wife of Syrian dictator Bashar al Assad revealed she was facing a second cancer diagnosis last week after she underwent treatment in 2018
3 min read
26 May, 2024
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his wife Asma have been sanctioned for their role in the brutal state repression of the civil war [archive/GETTY]

Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has expressed her gratitude for the well wishes she has received in her first appearance since the announcement of a leukaemia diagnosis.

The office of her husband President Bashar al-Assad announced last week that Asma had been diagnosed with an aggressive form of bone marrow and blood cancer.

In a video posted on her Instagram account, Asma, wearing a blue jumper and sitting on a sofa, said she has received "heartfelt messages of love and support".

"Since the announcement of my leukaemia diagnosis, I have received many heartfelt messages of love and support that have given us strength as a family under these circumstances," she says.

"Anyone battling an illness must have the strength and willpower to not only overcome it but also to endure being away from the people they love and are committed to serving."

"I will fight this battle armed with faith and absolute trust in God and with your prayers and love," she says, ending the message with "see you soon".

It is not clear where the video was filmed. A framed family photograph can be seen on the table adjacent to her.

Asma has previously undergone treatment for breast cancer in 2018 and was cleared of the disease a year later.

The couple are both under Western-imposed sanctions, including asset freezes and travel bans, for their role in the brutal state repression which underpinned the country’s civil war.

In 2021 the UK’s Metropolitan Police opened an investigation into London-born Asma for charges including supporting terrorism and heinous crimes associated with the Syrian regime.

Asma, 48, was born and educated in London and spent years working as an investment banker before meeting her husband Bashar in 2000.

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Asma is regarded as playing an intrinsic role in the military actions of the president, which saw the dictator be accused of torture, mass disappearances, bombing campaigns, and the use of chemical weapons against the Syrian population.

As first lady, observers regard Asma as playing an important part in the public relations efforts of the Syrian government, particularly in recent years as the regime attempts to claw back from global pariah status following years of conflict.

Bashar came to power in 2000 following the death of his father and previous incumbent Hafez al-Assad. As an Alawite minority leader in Sunni Muslim majority Syria, the Assad dynasty has sought to crush political opponents.

His rule has been characterized by a brutal state-sponsored crackdown of peaceful anti-government protests during the 2011 Arab Spring, which spiralled into a 13-year protracted civil war that has involved foreign armies and extremist militia groups.

The war has killed over half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of 23 million. It has ravaged the economy and infrastructure and seen the currency’s value collapse.

A report from the World Bank this week said that more than a quarter of the Syrian population lives in extreme poverty.