The latest on Syria. Officially the Syrian Arab Republic, the current state formed in the mid-20th century after Ottoman rule and a brief French mandate. Originally called the Republic of Syria when it declared a parliamentary independence in 1945, the country was renamed the Arab Republic of Syria in 1961. Bashar al-Assad has been president since 2000, taking over after his father, Hafez al-Assad, served as president from 1971 until 2000. al-Assad and his ruling political party, the Ba'ath Party, have been condemned internationally for human rights violations and censorship.