Syria’s British-born first lady Asma Assad has begun treatment for breast cancer.
The Syrian presidency posted on its Twitter page a photograph of President Bashar Assad sitting next to his wife in a hospital room with an intravenous drip in her left arm.
The accompanying statement said the "malignant tumour" was discovered in its early stages. Such public announcements are uncommon in the Arab world, where cancer is considered a taboo.
State news agency SANA said the first lady is undergoing treatment at a military hospital in the Syrian capital of Damascus.
The 42-year-old Asma Assad is originally from the central province of Homs. She was born and raised in the UK before moving to Syria after meeting the president when she turned 25 in 2000.
Since Syria’s civil war broke out, the First Lady has mostly been seen in public hosting people wounded in the conflict, now in its eighth year, which has killed more than 400,000 people.
Before the crisis began in March 2011, she was the subject of flattering profiles in Vogue and other fashion magazines.
As Syria’s conflict worsened, the first lady became a target of contempt for many opposition supporters who saw her as whitewashing atrocities carried out by the government.
Asma and Bashar Assad have been married for 18 years and have three children, Hafez, Zein and Karim.