College professors are know for their devotion to their students. Wait–no they’re not. This one is, though. A new report details how a chemistry professor found out that one of her students was in danger in Iraq. To protect her student and his family, she convinced the university to send in mercenaries to extract him.
Charlotta Turner, a professor at Sweden’s Lund University, got a text message from Firas Jumaah, one of her graduate students. This was 2014, and Jumaah was in a village in Iraq that was being surrounded by ISIS.
“What was happening was completely unacceptable,” Turner told the school’s paper. “I got so angry that IS [Islamic State] was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
The town where Jumaah and his family were hiding was being shelled by ISIS.
“I had no hope then at all,” Jumaah said. “I was desperate. I just wanted to tell my supervisor what was happening. I had no idea that a professor would be able to do anything for us.”
“Jumaah and his family were particularly in danger because they are part of the Yazidi ethnoreligious group that was subject to brutal treatment by ISIS,” Fox writes, “who often tortured or murdered the men and sold women into sex slavery.”
When Professor Turner got the message, she went to the university’s head of security, Per Gustafson.
“It was almost as if he’d been waiting for this kind of mission,” Turner said. “Per Gustafson said that we had a transport and security deal which stretched over the whole world.”
Gustafson takes the security of his student body seriously, even when they are stuck in Iraq. He hired four mercenaries who drove into the war zone in Landcruisers with the goal of rescuing Jumaah and his family.
“It was a unique event. As far as I know, no other university has ever been involved in anything like it,” Gustafson said.
The team found where Jumaah was hiding, and drove them to an airport in Erbil where they were flown from to safety.
“I have never felt so privileged, so VIP,’ Jumaah added. “But at the same time I felt like a coward as I left my mother and sisters behind me.”
His extended family survived, and the town were they live was retaken by the Kurds.
As for Jumaah, “he successfully completed his Ph.D. and works at a pharmaceutical company in Malmö,” Fox notes. “The family also almost paid off the university for the mercenaries they hired.”