Anisa Makhlouf, sometimes spelled Aniseh Makhlouf, (1930 – February 6, 2016) was the Syrian matriarch of the Al-Assad family, which has ruled the country since 1971. The wife of the late President Hafez al-Assad, Makhlouf held the position of First Lady of Syria from 1971 until 2000. Her five children include Bashar al-Assad, the President of Syria since 2000. The Economist has described Makhlouf as "a formidable figure" within the Al-Assad and the Syrian regime. A highly influential member of the regime, she was one of the few people with whom Bashar al-Assad regularly consulted during the Syrian Civil War. Makhlouf is believed to have advocated for a heavy, military crackdown on Syrian protesters and rebels during the ongoing Civil War.
Makhlouf was born in 1930 in Latakia, Syria, to the Makhloufs, an influential family from Latakia Governorate. She married Hafez al-Assad, an officer of the Syrian Arab Air Force, in 1957. They had five children: Bushra (b. 1960), Bassel al-Assad (1962–1994), Bashar al-Assad (b. 1965), Majd al-Assad (1966–2009), and Maher al-Assad. Her marriage to Hafez al-Assad elevated the status and wealth of the Makhlouf family. Anisa Makhlouf's relatives were awarded lucrative contracts within the country's banking, oil and telecommunication sectors. One of her nephews, Rami Makhlouf, is believed to be the wealthiest man in Syria, with a net worth of $5 billion USD, as of 2012.
Following the death of Bassel al-Assad in 1994, Makhlouf favored Maher al-Assad, her youngest son and a Syrian general, as a possible successor for her husband. Instead, Bashar al-Assad returned from London, joined the military, and succeeded his father as President of Syria in 2000.
Makhlouf is believed to have advocated for a harsh crackdown on protesters and rebels during the Arab Spring and Syrian Civil War. In 2012, Makhlouf, as well as other members of the Al-Assad family, were slapped with sanctions by the European Union amid the country's civil war and attacks on protesters by the al-Assad regime. The EU sanctions included a travel ban and the freezing of her assets. Prior to the travel ban, Makhlouf had reportedly made frequent trips to Germany for medical treatment.
Anisa Makhlouf, who was believed to be 86, died in Damascus on February 6, 2016.