Teen injured in Syria vows to rejoin fight
Shaelynn Jabs just wanted to help.
But the 19-year-old aspiring paramedic from Drayton Valley went to lengths few would consider. Last fall, Jabs embarked on a six-month tour in Syria, fighting in the battle against ISIL before an explosion left her deaf in one ear. Her injuries forced her to return home.
“The only real way to survive there is to understand that you aren’t coming home, because you see people die all the time. It’s so easy, it’s like a flip of a switch,” said Jabs, who returned to her hometown about 300 kilometres north of Calgary, last month.
Jabs’ experience has given her a much better understanding of the value of life. And a first-hand view of why she went to Syria in the first place.
“I was watching a lot of the videos about the Islamic State beheading people and people losing their families. And I wanted to make a difference,” Jabs said.
While in high school, Jabs had her heart set on helping Syrians. She began learning about bullet wounds and tourniquets by researching and reading as much as she could.
After graduating from high school, Jabs headed to the wartorn country, leaving last October.
It was a big decision that was hard on both her and her mother. Brenda Jabs went weeks at a time without hearing from her daughter, hoping she was safe.
“I knew from the moment I put her on the airplane that there was probably a greater chance that she wouldn’t come home than there was that she would,” said Brenda Jabs. “And when I had those feelings, I prayed a lot.”
In Syria, Shaelynn Jabs discovered there was a desperate need when it came to treating the war wounded and she pitched in, doing what she could to help save lives. After a month, Jabs decided to pick up a weapon and join the fight directly.
“They were telling me there was no one on the front lines and people were dying while bleeding out. And I thought if I was fighting at the front lines I could save someone’s life. Because by the time (many) people reach the hospital, there is very little you can do,” she said.
The Alberta teen fought with a militia known as the Kurdish People’s Protection Unit.
“I wanted to be able to show them there are other countries that care,” she said.
There were times when Jabs felt death was imminent. She recalls one day, in particular, when her group’s position was threatened by a number of ISIL trucks that eventually dispersed.
“Me and my friends sat down and said goodbyes because we thought we were going to die,” she said.
Part of her group’s duties included alerting families of local villages that they would have to evacuate, abandoning their homes.
With more than 25,000 Syrian refugees already settled in Canada, Jabs is hopeful more will be welcomed into the country to finally find peace.
Jabs now plans to attend college to become a paramedic. She also plans to go back to Syria. “I want to get a job and do normal things, but my mind keeps going back to that. It’s hard. How can I live a normal life when they can’t?” Jabs said.