Image 1 of 17: Hailing his people and power, a smiling, smug Bashar is not so formidable as father who ruled by force, and it is perhaps his cronies and military that lend him the iron fist he nevertheless wields. Known as more of a soft touch, on a path for doctoring, not dictating initially.
Image 1 of 17: As protests spread from city to city, acts such as the trampling of al-Assad’s posters were witnessed- something many did not believe they would live to see.
Image 1 of 17: Now struck down, are these citizens finally ready to speak out against a most imposing and tyrannous regime, and have they broken down their barrier of fear?
Image 1 of 17: This rather is the more common site expected to be witnessed in Syria. Kissing the President’s likeness, though whether voluntarily or not is in question here.
Image 1 of 17: The ruling family of Syria, who CNN has compared to the Mafia supremos from the Godfather. The members surrounding the ruler are more potent than the once-medic fairly meek Bashar.
Image 1 of 17: The Godfather, Haafez al-Assad: Master of Syrian oppression for more than half a century, notably when he ordered the Hama massacre, which has been described as the single deadliest act by any Arab government against its own people in the modern Middle East.
Image 1 of 17: Rifaat al-Assad: Uncle to Bashar; headed the massacre of Palmyra, taking out 600-700 people, and responsible for the massacre of Hama in February 1982, which estimated the number of victims at 20-30 thousand people.
Image 1 of 17: Ribal al-Assad: Cousin from the father’s side, son of Bashar’s uncle who had a hand in the massacre at Hama. He warned Bashar to either change or be changed.
Image 1 of 17: Maher al-Assad: Military figure responsible for Durra harsh response. Here seen photographing casualties from his own harsh military response to peaceful protests.
Image 1 of 17: Known for his smuggling of antiquities in Syria has the disposable income to buy such toys. Buggati car owned by Maher al-Assad, worth $2,000,000.
Image 1 of 17: Basil al-Assad: The late brother of Bashar, once expected to rule. Victim of a car accident. Rumor has it he died cause he was not favored by the regime. He loved horses and the outdoors.
Image 1 of 17: Rami Makhlouf: Most eminent and ubiquitous businessman in Syria. Bashar’s first cousin, owns a telephone company, Syriate, and known for harsh arrest of MP Riad Seif for inquiring too closely into the operation of the company.
Image 1 of 17: Asma al-Akhras: Dubbed, The most stylish woman in world politics, the sexy Brit bringing Syria in from the cold. First Lady to President Bashar, tagged by Vogue, controversially, given the climate, the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies.
Image 1 of 17: Fawaz Akhras: Father to Asma, former diplomat and a Syrian cardiologist, founded the British Syrian society. Family friend to the late Hafez. He took advantage of his daughter's marriage to profit from the regime.
Image 1 of 17: Asef Showkat: Husband to Bushra al Assad- sister of Bashar. House arrested in Syria, while Bushra granted asylum by the UAE.
Image 1 of 17: Bouthaina Shaaban: Longtime spokeswoman for the Regime- served under both father and son.
Image 1 of 17: Rustom Ghazali: In collusion with Maher, Rustom involved in official security apparatus particularly in the security control operation in Lebanon. Rumored to have a hand in Harriri’s death.
Similar to the the nature of Syrian politics, much known about but little spoken of, often cloaked in secrecy, the Assads, who have reigned supreme as ruling family for over half a century, like to do things hush-hush and on the down-low. Take the nature of the courtship and even marriage of the current President to wife Asma Akhras. Asma, at the time working for a bank in the UK, conducted her whole relationship with the number one family on the sly, as she surreptitiously stole time with Bashar before the couple conducted their discreet marriage in 2000. This, in the words of American Vogue, the freshest and most magnetic of first ladies, married into a family famous for the fear it commands and instills in its people- she seemed to promise high hopes for a new era of political reform in a country invested in new president, a former eye surgeon, and his charming British- born Syrian wife.
Rumored to have a wealth of 40 billion dollars, the First Family’s Funds are equivalent to 5 times the economic production capacity of Syria. The fortune of Syrian President Assad alone distributed around Swiss banks amounts to approx. 1.9 billion Swiss francs (about 2 billion dollars). The monthly income of the average Syrian citizen is a lowly $200.
The family is soaked in purported corruption, and while ties between Syria and Lebanon are quite in the open, there are even links between Bashar al Assad and Lebanon’s Harriri, through ownership of the Lebanon central bank. The President is said to maintain the Bank of Lebanon's central files in with all their irregularities, compounding Lebanon's status of consistent instability.