Last updated: 23 September, 2012

Syrian president’s sister now living in Dubai

Embattled Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s only sister, Bushra, whose husband was killed in a July bombing, is now living in Dubai with her children, Syrian residents told AFP on Sunday.

Bushra’s husband General Assef Shawkat, an army deputy chief of staff, was killed along with three other high-ranking officials in a July 18 bombing at the National Security headquarters in Damascus.

The president’s elder sister, a pharmacist in her 50s, has five children she has enrolled at a private school in Dubai, according to Syrian expatriates in the emirate.

Ayman Abdel Nour, editor-in-chief of opposition news website, told AFP that Bushra, who did not hold any position in the Syrian regime, left after “differences” with her brother whose troops are locked in a deadly conflict with rebels.

Bashar has “accused her of being closer to the opposition because she did not entirely agree with his policies,” Abdel Nour said.

In 2008, Bushra also left Syria following what sources said were “disagreements” with her brother, staying for one year with her children in the United Arab Emirates capital Abu Dhabi.

With Bushra’s departure, Assad now has only his brother Maher, who commands the notorious Fourth Brigade, in the country.

Their other two brothers, Bassel and Majd, are dead.

Bassel, who was groomed by his father — Syria’s former president Hafez al-Assad — to succeed in power had opposed Bushra’s marriage to Shawkat and put the latter behind bars on four separate occasions to ensure he would stay away from his sister.

But Bassel’s death in a January 1994 car accident enabled the marriage to go ahead a year later.

Majd, of whom little is known, died of unspecified illness in 2009.

According to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, at least 29,000 people have been killed since the revolt against Assad’s rule erupted in March last year. The United Nations puts the toll at more than 20,000.

A large number of businessmen and wealthy Syrians fleeing the unrest have arrived in Dubai over the past few months.