It sounds like the plot of an action film, but a chemist at a Swedish university organized a daring rescue of her Iraqi doctoral student and his family after they became trapped in an Islamic State (IS) war zone. The rescue took place in 2014 but has only recently come to light.
In 2014, Firas Jumaah was working on supercritical fluid chromatography and mass spectrometry of natural products under the supervision of analytical chemist Charlotta Turner. But in early August that year, Jumaah dropped everything and left for Iraq. His wife and two children had traveled to their hometown in Dohuk in northern Iraq for a family wedding when Isis went on the offensive, threatening the lives of people in that region. ‘My wife was panic-stricken, the actions by IS shocked everyone,’ Jumaah said. ‘I took the first plane there to be with them – what kind of life would I have if something happened to them and I was not there?’
Jumaah and his family are Yazidis, an ethno-religious group that has suffered brutal persecution by Isis who declared them devil worshippers. In August 2014, Isis captured a town in Iraq’s north, forcing 50,000 Yazidis to flee to the nearby mountains. Isis murdered, kidnapped and enslaved many of those remaining in the region. ‘I followed the news and got really worried, thinking about him all the time,’ says Turner.