Asma al-Assad was born in London to Syrian parents and raised in West Acton.
Her father, Sahar Al-Akhras, is aHarley Street consultant and her mother, Fawaz Al-Akhras, served as first secretary at the Syrian embassy in London. They are originally from Homs in Syria, the town that has come under bombardment from Assad's forces in the last year.
Asma attended an independent girls' school in London before graduating from King's College London with a first class degree in Computer Science and a Diploma in French Literature in 1996.
It is during her university years that it is believed she first met Bashar al-Assad, the son of then-President Hafez al-Assad. He had moved to the UK in 1992 to study ophthalmology.
After graduating, Asma spent six months travelling, both in the Far East and in Europe. In 1997, she started working for the forerunner of Deutsche Bank as an analyst before moving to the investment division of JP Morgan a year later.
Her career in banking came to an abrupt end two years later when, in December 2000, she married Bashar al-Assad, who had become President of Syria earlier that year.
As first lady, Asma has played been a leading advocate for rural development and women's and children's rights in Syria, winning a number of awards for her work.
She has three children with her husband: Hafez, 10, Zein, 8, and Kareem, 7.
In February, Mrs Assad allegedly broke her silence about the uprising in Syria with an email sent via an intermediary to The Times newspaper. She is quoted as writing:
Recently, her lifestyle was laid open in a series of private emails leaked to The Guardian newspaper. In them, she reveals her love of expensive furniture, fine jewellery and Christian Louboutin shoes.
In one email she was reported to have ordered 35,000 euro (£29,260) worth of furniture and candlesticks from a Paris boutique.