Born on September 11, 1965, Bashar al-Assad took control of Syria after his father died in 2000. The reign of the unpopular Alawite led to a massive civil war and may have contributed to the rise of the "Islamic State."
Bashar al-Assad took control of Syria and its more than 20 million people when his father, Hafez, died in 2000. Many had hoped that Assad, who ran unopposed for the presidency, would institute reforms after decades of rule by the Baathist strongman. True freedom did not come about, however - a reality made clear in the violent government response to protests in 2011, which led to the beginning of Syria's civil war, the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people and the displacement of millions.
Syria's president believes his country is caught up in a much larger conflict than its own civil war. He warned that "things are going to be out of control" if superpowers engage in direct conflict.