Syria's first lady starts breast cancer treatment

Syrian first lady Asma Assad is being treated for breast cancer

Asma al-Assad begins her preliminary treatment of a malignant breast tumour that was discovered early.

The wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has been diagnosed with breast cancer and is being treated for an early-stage malignant tumour, the office of the Syrian Presidency announced on Wednesday. "From the heart - the presidency of the republic and the working group wish Mrs Asma a speedy recovery".

The public disclosure of a serious health issue in the top echelons of an Arab state is quite rare as such matters are usually shrouded in secrecy.

Asma AL Assad, 42, has been married to the president for 18 years, and they have three children, Hafez, Zein, and Karim.

The presidency posted on its Facebook page a photo of President Bashar Assad sitting next to his wife in a hospital room with an IV in her left arm.

She has consistently stood by her husband despite allegations of war crimes.

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In 2011, Mrs al-Assad was controversially described as a "rose in the desert" in a profile by Vogue magazine.

Born in 1975, the British-born former investment banker styled herself as a progressive rights advocate and was seen as the modern side of the Assad dynasty.

She was born and raised in Britain before moving back to Syria after meeting the president.

While she has been largely out of the public eye throughout the early years of the conflict, recently she has been regally pictured undertaking heavily staged charity work that received significant coverage in government-run media.

She has been in the news for standing by Mr Assad throughout Syria's seven-year civil war.

Asma's last foreign interview was conducted in October 2016 with Kremlin-backed RT, in which she said she turned down offers from foreign adversaries for guarantees of safety and financial security if she fled the war-torn country.

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