Mr. Omar, 29, the soft-spoken and wiry son of Syrian parents who immigrated to Germany in the 1950s, grew up in Rheda-Wiedenbrück, a prosperous village of half-timbered 16th-century houses, where he listened to Mariah Carey and daydreamed about one day returning to Syria.
Today, he is still trying to make sense of his unlikely transformation from a dutiful German student to a killer for the brutal Syrian government of President Bashar al-Assad and, ultimately, a defector. “I was proud to be Syrian, but instead became a soldier for a regime that was intent on killing its own people,” Mr. Omar said on a recent day, chain-smoking at a cafe in this Turkish border town. “I thank God every day that I am still alive.”
There is no way to corroborate much of Mr. Omar’s account of his journey to becoming an enforcer for the Assad government. Though human rights groups and activists operating in Syria say it fits the pattern of hundreds of defectors who have fled the country, it is simply one man’s tale. It began in 2004 when he left Germany for Aleppo, in Syria’s north, with the aim of getting in touch with his roots, studying law, improving his Arabic and finding a wife.
He managed to do all that, entering law school, marrying a doctor and, eventually, having a child. His parents, meanwhile, had moved back to Aleppo because his father wanted to live out his final years in the old country.