What drives the rebels of the Free Syrian Army? Ask Ammar Cheikh Omar. Raised in Germany to Syrian parents, he'd moved to Syria to attend law school and start a family. But in 2010 he was drafted into the Syrian military, and soon found himself in Daraa, ordered to shoot at civilians, he tells the New York Times. "If there's an officer ... next to you, you don't have a choice but to shoot," he says. So he aimed over the protesters' heads, and prayed he didn't hit anyone.
Omar says the horrors he saw in Daraa convinced him to defect, but before he could, he was transferred to a security unit that interrogated protesters, torturing them with cattle prods, beating them, and urinating on them. "It was painful to watch," he says. "After a while I got used to it. But I could not live with myself if I had remained." Next Omar was sent to Hama, and took the chance to defect and escape to Turkey and join the rebels. "I will never forget the dead bodies … on the streets," he said in a YouTube video. "Hitler died in Germany, but awoke in Syria." (Read more Anmar Cheikh Omar stories.)