Asma al-Assad
Asma al-Assad Reuters

The father-in-law of Syrian president Bashar al-Assad is reported to be horrified by the violent suppression of the Syrian uprising and fears for his daughter's safety.

Dr Fawaz Akhras, the father of Asma al-Assad, told the Sunday Express Assad should proceed with democratic reforms "before it's too late".

The London-based doctor also revealed that he fears for his 36-year-old daughter's safety after rumours suggested that she was being held as a virtual prisoner in Damascus in an effort to prevent her from fleeing the country.

Akhras has been tight-lipped about the situation in Syria. He allegedly told friends at the British Syrian Society that he felt like he was in an impossible situation, torn between loyalty to the Assad family and international condemnation of the brutal crackdown.

The Syrian-born Harley Street cardiologist founded the society in 2003 to promote bilateral ties.

He and his wife, Sahar Otri Al-Akhras, were forced to be move from their terrace house in Acton, west London, after protests were organised outside their property.

The Syrian first lady is British-born and was educated in west London, before graduating in computer science from King's College London in 1996. She still has a British passport.

Throughout the uprising, there have been persistent rumours that she had fled Syria with her three children, but she has repeatedly been seen in Syria standing by her husband.

She appeared at a pro-Assad rally in Damascus in January and was most recently seen in late February, when she cast her ballot at a polling station in Damascus in a referendum on a new constitution for the country.

The constitution, which was approved by some 89 per cent of voters according to Syrian officials, will establish a multi-party system in Syria, which has been governed solely by the Baath Party since 1963.

While the creation of a multi-party system was one of the main demands of protesters at the beginning of the year-long uprising, the brutalisation of the country has hardened opponents into demanding nothing less than the departure of Assad.