August 4, 2019 / 10:26 AM / 18 days ago

Syrian president's wife says she has fully recovered from breast cancer

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, has fully recovered from breast cancer, she told state TV on Saturday, a year after it announced her diagnosis.

FILE PHOTO: Asma al-Assad, wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, reacts during the graduation ceremony of professors from Damascus University, who will work at the Syrian Organisation for Persons with Disabilities, in Damascus, Syria December 3, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sanadiki/File Photo

Since Syria plunged into war eight years ago, the 43-year-old former investment banker has taken on a public role of leading charity efforts and meeting families of killed soldiers, but has also become a hate figure for the opposition.

Activists and insurgents accuse Asma al-Assad, born in London to a family from Homs City, of being complicit in atrocities they accuse the Syrian government of committing. Her husband’s enemies have dubbed her “the lady of death” while supporters praise her as “the jasmine of Damascus”.

The war has killed hundreds of thousands of people, uprooted at least 11 million, and created one of the world’s worst refugee crises.

A year ago, the Syrian presidency published a photo of Asma al-Assad hooked up to a drip, smiling and sitting next to her husband in a hospital room. It said she had started treatment for “a malignant tumor” that was discovered early.

“My journey is over, with all its pain and weariness, its drawbacks and even its positives. Praise God, it’s over. I have fully triumphed over cancer,” she said in the interview broadcast late on Saturday. She said she had received chemotherapy treatment at a Syrian military hospital.

“Those who sold their land and nation, who carried arms against their Syrian brothers under foreign orders,” she said, responding to critics who had said she deserved the diagnosis. “Do you think they have any room left for morals?”

Since 2011, air strikes have battered major cities, the United Nations has documented chemical weapons attacks on civilians, and countless have faced torture or disappeared. Damascus denies targeting civilians.

With vital help from Russia and Iran, Assad has now reclaimed most of Syria. In recent years, his military has crushed strongholds held by an array of rebel factions, some that had received Turkish, Gulf or U.S. backing.

In a rare interview in 2016 with Russian state-backed TV, she defended President Assad and said she had rejected secret offers to leave the country, which she believed sought to undermine her husband.

Reporting by Ellen Francis; Editing by Raissa Kasolowsky

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