BEIRUT — Syria's first lady Asma Assad has begun treatment for breast cancer, the presidency said Wednesday, wishing her a speedy recovery.
Such public announcements are uncommon in the Arab world, where cancer is considered a taboo.
The presidency posted on its Facebook page a photo of President Bashar Assad sitting next to his wife in a hospital room with an IV in her left arm. The accompanying statement said the "malignant tumor" was discovered in its early stages.
State news agency SANA said the first lady is undergoing treatment at a military hospital in the Syrian capital of Damascus. It gave no further details.
Later Wednesday, the presidency posted another photo of the first lady waking, carrying a laptop in one hand and a cup in the other. Her left wrist was bandaged.
"I belong to the (Syrian) people who taught the world steadfastness, strength and how to face difficulties," read the caption in Arabic. "My determination comes from your determination and strength in the past years."
The 42-year-old Asma Assad's family is originally from the central province of Homs. She was born and raised in Britain before moving back to Syria after meeting the president.
Since Syria's civil war broke out, Asma Assad has mostly been seen in public receiving families of fallen soldiers, or 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. In 2009, Britain's top-selling tabloid The Sun introduced its readers to the "sexy Brit" who was "bringing Syria in from the cold."
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.