In 1994, while driving to the airport in Damascus, Basil al-Assad, the eldest son of the President of Syria was critically injured in a car accident that slowly drained him of his health and finally took his life during the "Arab Spring".
Physician, Heal ThyselfOnly thirty-one years of age, the true extent of the injuries had not been fully revealed by the time his father passed away on June 10th, 2000. Nevertheless Hafiz al-Assad had taken the precaution of interjecting his hardass younger brother Maher into the Syrian power structure. A decade later, he was already running the government in all but name, and when his elder brother finally died he made his move.
Meanwhile their second brother, Bashar had fulfilled his father's dream of becoming a doctor. After graduating with a medical degree from Damascus University in 1988, he worked briefly as an army doctor before moving to England in 1992 for postgraduate studies in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London. During this time, he also married Asma Akhas, a Syrian raised in London.
His brothers struggled to play the dangerous and delicate game of high politics, sometimes funding terrorists in Lebanon, at other times, permitting the United States to send terror suspects to Syrian prisons for interrogation and torture. Bashar managed to remain out of this madness, and his own involvement in high politics was limited to a lobbying role in London's bid for the 2012 Olympics.
However Maher's ascendancy, combined with the Arab Spring, changed everything. As a middle-aged academic returning to Syria for his elder brother's funeral, he was secretly contacted by Arab Spring activists. Acting on behalf of Sunni opposition figures, they explained that they wanted him as their front man for a new, interim administration that could manage a smooth transition and head-off the revolutionary potential of the new youthquake.