The death of Hafez al-Assad, Syria’s ruler for three decades, propelled his son Bashar to the presidency in 2000.
Although he had not originally been destined for the top job, Bashar’s grooming began when his older brother Basel, the first in line to succeed his father, was killed in a car accident in 1994.
Assad’s government has few friends internationally, but it continues to enjoy strong diplomatic support from Russia and also from its traditional ally, Iran.
Assad has held onto power for more than three years in the face of an uprising by a large part of the Syrian population.
Recent estimates by activists suggest that more than 150,000 people have been killed during the conflict.