Bashar al-Assad Fast Facts

(CNN)Here's a look at the life of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Birth date: September 11, 1965
Birth place: Damascus, Syria
Father: Hafez Assad, late Syrian President
Mother: Anisa Makhlouf al-Assad
    Marriage: Asma (Akhras) al-Assad (2000-present)
    Children: Karim, 2004; Zein, 2003; Hafez, 2001
    Education: University of Damascus, Medicine, 1988; Ophthalmology residency, London, 1992-1994
    Military service: Syrian Army, 1999, Colonel
    Religion: Alawite Muslim
    1994 - Syrian President Hafez Assad's oldest son and heir apparent, Basel, dies in a car accident. Second son Bashar, is called back from medical training in Britain and is groomed to take over his father's role as president.
    1999 - Assad becomes a colonel in the Syrian army.
    June 10, 2000 - President Hafez Assad dies of a heart attack after 29 years in office.
    July 10, 2000 - Assad is elected unopposed as president of Syria.
    January 2006 - Assad and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad hold a summit meeting in Damascus. Assad declares his support for Iran's nuclear program.
    May 29, 2007 - Runs unopposed for president and is elected to a second seven-year term.
    October 14, 2008 - Assad signs a decree establishing diplomatic relations between Syria and Lebanon.
    April 21, 2011 - In response to Arab Spring protests, Assad lifts the country's 48-year-old state of emergency law. The law, which went into effect in 1963, restricted freedom of speech and gave the government broad power to detain people for perceived threats to national security.
    May 18, 2011 - The United States imposes sanctions against Assad and six other senior Syrian officials. The Treasury Department details the sanctions by saying, "As a result of this action, any property in the United States or in the possession or control of US persons in which the individuals listed in the Annex have an interest is blocked, and US persons are generally prohibited from engaging in transactions with them."
    August 18, 2011 - Both the United States and the European Union call for Assad to step down. US authorities also impose new economic sanctions against Damascus, freezing Syrian government assets in the United States, barring Americans from making new investments in Syria and prohibiting any US transactions relating to Syrian petroleum products, among other things.
    October 10, 2011 - A statement issued after a meeting attended by all 27 foreign ministers in the European Union condemns "in the strongest possible terms the ongoing brutal repression led by the Syrian regime," and declares that Syria's leader must resign "to allow a political transition to take place in Syria."
    November 22, 2011 - Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan calls on Assad to resign and warns that he faces the same fate as Benito Mussolini, Nicolae Ceausescu, and Moammar Gadhafi, all leaders killed by their own people.
    March 10-11, 2012 - Assad meets twice with then-UN envoy Kofi Annan to discuss the bloodshed in Syria.
    March 23, 2012 - European Union sanctions are placed on Assad's wife, Asma, his mother, sister and sister-in-law. Their EU assets are frozen and a travel ban prevents them from traveling to any EU country. London-born Asma al-Assad cannot be barred entry into Britain despite the EU ban.
    July 18, 2012 - Syria's Deputy Defense Minister Assef Shawkat -- Assad's brother-in-law is killed, along with two other regime officials, in an explosion at a national security building in Damascus.
    February 10, 2015 - In an interview with the BBC, Assad says his regime is apprised of US-led coalition efforts against ISIS in Syria -- not by the Americans, but through third parties such as Iraq. Assad also says that Syria won't join the international coalition trying to "degrade and destroy" ISIS.
    December 1, 2015 - In an interview with Czech TV, Assad says that US-led airstrikes against ISIS have not slowed the terrorist organization, and that ISIS has only recently begun to shrink due to Russia's direct involvement.
    July 9, 2016 - Assad is named in a wrongful death lawsuit filed in federal court in Washington, DC by the family of journalist, Marie Colvin, who was killed in 2012 while covering the war in Syria. According to the lawsuit, Colvin was targeted in a rocket attack by Syrian government agents because of her reporting. Colvin and other journalists were tracked by the Syrian regime, the documents say. Days later, during an interview with NBC News, Assad denies that the government was responsible for Colvin's death. He says she entered the country illegally, putting herself at risk.
      April 11, 2017 - Russian president Vladimir Putin claims, without evidence, that a deadly chemical attack on April 4 in the town of Khan Sheikhoun was staged to frame Assad and his regime. Putin says that more chemical attacks are being planned by opponents of Assad to provoke action by the United States.