Bashar Hafez al-Assad (Arabic: بشار حافظ الأسد Baššār Ḥāfiẓ al-ʾAsad, Levantine pronunciation: [baʃˈʃaːr ˈħaːfezˤ elˈʔasad]; English pronunciation ; born 11 September 1965) is the 19th and current President of Syria, holding the office since 17 July 2000. He is also commander-in-chief of the Syrian Armed Forces, General Secretary of the ruling Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party and Regional Secretary of the party's branch in Syria. He is a son of Hafez al-Assad, who was President of Syria from 1971 to 2000.
Born and raised in Damascus, Assad graduated from the medical school of Damascus University in 1988, and started to work as a doctor in the Syrian Army. Four years later, he attended postgraduate studies at the Western Eye Hospital in London, specialising in ophthalmology. In 1994, after his elder brother Bassel died in a car crash, Bashar was recalled to Syria to take over Bassel's role as heir apparent. He entered the military academy, taking charge of the Syrian military presence in Lebanon in 1998. On 10 July 2000, Assad was elected as President, succeeding his father, who died in office a month prior. In the 2000 and subsequent 2007 election, he received 99.7% and 97.6% support, respectively, in uncontested referendums on his leadership.
On 16 July 2014, Assad was sworn in for another seven-year term after receiving 88.7% of votes in the first contested presidential election in Ba'athist Syria's history. The election was dismissed as a "sham" by the Syrian opposition and its Western allies, while an international delegation who observed the election issued a statement asserting that the election was "free and fair". The Assad government describes itself as secular, while some political scientists have claimed that the government exploits sectarian tensions in the country and relies upon the Alawite minority to remain in power.
Once seen by the international community as a potential reformer, the United States, the European Union, and the majority of the Arab League called for Assad's resignation from the presidency after he allegedly ordered crackdowns and military sieges on Arab Spring protesters, which led to the Syrian Civil War. During the Syrian Civil War, an inquiry by the United Nations reported finding evidence which implicated Assad in war crimes. In June 2014, Assad was included in a list of war crimes indictments of government officials and rebels handed to the International Criminal Court. Assad has rejected allegations of war crimes, and criticised the American-led intervention in Syria for attempting regime change.