The regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad has been stung by a string of prominent defections, from the prime minister to a leading general to a military aviator who was Syria's first man in space.
Ra'ed, a soldier from Syria's most prestigious military unit, the Republican Guard, is among the defectors.
The guard's chief duty is to protect the Syrian leadership. But Ra'ed says he never felt proud to serve after he was drafted in June 2010 at age 19.
Ra'ed, who is now living in Lebanon, asked that NPR use only his first name out of concern for his safety.