President Bashar’s elder sister reportedly had the ear of their father, the late President Hafez Assad. In 1995 she eloped and married Assef Shawkat, a divorced father-of-five who was 10 years her senior, despite objections from her family. Then-president Hafez Assad eventually welcomed the couple back into the fold, and her husband’s power has risen ever since. A 2006 profile in the Mideast Monitor described Bushra Assad as politically astute, with an intellect comparable to her father. “Though she shuns the spotlight, her behind-the-scenes political influence has been decisive at times,” it said. The report also noted tension between her and Asma Assad, the President’s wife, over the latter’s frequent public appearances.
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