Bashar Al-Assad was doing his specialist training in ophthalmology at the Western Eye Hospital in London when his brother Basil wrapped himself and his sports car round a tree. Bashar’s father summoned him back home to prepare to succeed him. When his father died in 2000, Bashar became president of Syria.
In Syria, Bashar’s mild features gaze out from every shop window, every hoarding, even the rear windows of cars. It is said that he is temperamentally unsuited to dictatorship, but he has not managed to democratise his country, and protests about the lack of freedom in Syria are being suppressed brutally, whether by his orders or those of his relatives who exercise the real control. Bashar may be reflecting that, but for an RTA, he could be running a lucrative private practice, or, who knows, head a national trachoma programme.