Four years ago, a chemistry professor got a text from her grad student: If I'm not back in a week, cut me from the doctoral program. Charlotta Turner called him right away: "He was very sad and crying,” the 48-year-old prof at Lund University in Sweden tells NBC News. "I could hear that the situation was hopeless and they had to flee." The student, Firas Jumaah, was visiting his native Iraq to help family members during a brutal 2014 ISIS attack targeting Yazidis—a religious minority that includes his family. The terror group had just enslaved and massacred Yazidis by the thousand in nearby Sinjar. Now Jumaah and family were planning to flee to the mountains. "I had no hope at all," says Jumaah, per the Local. "I was desperate."
But Turner took action. She spoke to Lund University's then-security chief, who contacted a company that sent mercenaries into northern Iraq. Only days later, four armed mercs on two Landcruisers blazed into the place where Jumaah was hiding, and rushed him to Erbil Airport with his wife and two young kids. "I have never felt so privileged, so VIP," he says. "But at the same time I felt like a coward as I left my mother and sisters behind me." Seeing his colleagues back in Sweden, he was speechless: "I just cried," he says. Yet Jumaah finished his PhD and found work at a Malmo pharmaceuticals company, and his family survived. The bill: roughly 60,000 kroner ($6,613), which his family has nearly finished paying. “If they told me to pay 200,000 kronor, I would,” says Jumaah. (The UN is finding fresh ISIS horrors.)