Syria: President’s wife down with leukemia

Syrian first lady Asma al-Assad has been diagnosed with leukemia, the office of President Bashar al-Assad announced Tuesday.

The president’s wife was diagnosed with acute myeloid leukemia “after presenting with several symptoms and following a comprehensive series of medical tests and examinations,” the statement said.

She will “adhere to a specialised treatment protocol that includes stringent infection prevention measures” and “will temporarily withdraw from all direct engagements” as part of the treatment plan, it added.

Acute myeloid leukemia is an aggressive cancer of the bone marrow and the blood.

Asma al-Assad has previously been treated for breast cancer. In August 2019, she announced that she was “completely” free of the disease a year after her diagnosis.

Born and raised in the United Kingdom, although her family is originally from central Syria, the first lady is a powerful and divisive figure. She is under western sanctions and has been a highly controversial figure in the course of the 13-year Syrian conflict.

She was an investment banker before quitting to marry the then-newly minted President Bashar al-Assad, in 2000. She has since maintained a public role, promoting civil and charity groups, but has been accused of using her British education and Western style to try to mask the brutality of her husband’s crackdown on dissent.

The war, which has killed over half a million people and displaced half the country’s pre-war population of of 23 million, began as peaceful protests against Assad’s regime in March 2011.

The protests were met by a brutal crackdown, and the revolt quickly spiraled into a full-blown civil war which has seen the intervention of foreign armies and militant groups.

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

Prior to the announcement of that she would be withdrawing from public events, the first lady had been widely expected to attend the festivities.

Daily mail