Some educators genuinely care about their pupils. There are those who go out of their way to tutor, mentor, offer advice or even take personal interest in the struggles impacting their students' lives at home.
Then there’s Charlotta Turner, a professor of analytical chemistry at Sweden’s Lund University, who, upon learning that one of her doctoral students was in hiding in an Islamic State war zone, dispatched a heavily-armed mercenary squad to rescue the student and his family.
Firas Jumaah was completing a doctorate thesis under Turner in 2014 when he received a terrifying text message from his wife, who was home in northern Iraq with the couple’s two young children: ISIS fighters had captured an adjacent Yazidi village and were killing the men and enslaving the women.
“My wife was totally panicking," Jumaah told Lund’s University Magazine LUM. “I took the first plane there to be with them. What sort of life would I have if anything had happened to them there?”
After arriving in Iraq and reuniting with his panicked family, Jumaah packed up some of their belongings and moved them to a hideout in an abandoned bleach factory, Sweden’s The Local reported. All the while, the family could hear the sounds of ISIS gun fire getting closer with each passing day.
Amidst the chaos, Jumaah sent a text message to Turner to inform her that he likely wouldn’t be finishing his doctorate thesis.
“I had no hope then at all,” he 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.”
But Turner is not just any professor. And as the saying goes, “Those who can, do. Those who cannot, hire mercenaries to get Jumaah the hell out of there.”
“What was happening was completely unacceptable,” Turner told LUM. “I got so angry that IS was pushing itself into our world, exposing my doctoral student and his family to this, and disrupting the research.”
Nobody puts Turner’s research in the corner — especially ISIS.
Desperate to help, Turner contacted Lund University’s security chief, Per Gustafson, to see if there was anything that could be done.
Per usual, Gustafson delivered, and the two university employees collaborated to hire a mercenary team from a security company that put the rescue mission together in less than a week.
“It was almost as if [Gustafson had] been waiting for this kind of mission,” Turner said.
In a matter of days, four mercenaries — armed to the teeth — rolled up to the bleach factory, loaded Jumaah and his family into the vehicles and hightailed it to Erbil Airport, approximately 55 miles east of Mosul.
“I have never felt so privileged, so VIP,” Jumaah told LUM.
With his wife and children safe, Jumaah returned to Sweden and completed his PhD. He currently lives in Malmo.
Turner remains a professor at Lund University, where her badassery knows no bounds.
J.D. Simkins is a writer and editor for Military Times, and a USMC veteran.