Syrian President Bashar al-Assad's 52-year-old sister Bushra has reportedly fled the country with her children, defecting to Dubai.
The family is said to have escaped after an argument in which Bushra disagreed with her brother over his management of the current civil war in the country. It is believed that she and her children will remain in Dubai. According to Al Arabiya television, she has enrolled her children at school there.
A Syrian source who spoke with the television news network on condition of anonymity said there is a faction of Alawite leaders who are worried the entire minority sect could eventually become implicated in Assad's crimes against civilians. The source added that this has made some Alawites turn against him and that a “front of Alawite officers” has been formed to liaise with the opposition Free Syrian Army and help overthrow the regime.
Bushra, a pharmacist by profession, is Assad's oldest sibling, and the only daughter of Hafez al-Assad, Bashar's father and predecessor as president of the country. Her husband was General Assef Shawkat, deputy chief of staff of the Syrian Armed Forces and former head of the Syrian Military Intelligence. He was a top member of Assad's inner circle, and one of a group of top regime officials who were killed in a bombing by opposition forces on July 18 in Damascus.
An opposition website reported that Bushra Assad has lived in the United Arab Emirates once before, during a previous rift with her brother Bashar. The website is owned by opposition figure Ayman Abdulnoor.