Princeton doctoral student held captive in Iraq

Elizabeth Tsurkov was conducting research in Iraq when she was kidnapped in March by a group with ties to Iran.

Elizabeth Tsurkov

Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian citizen working on her doctorate at Princeton University. (courtesy of

Elizabeth Tsurkov, an Israeli-Russian citizen working on her doctorate at Princeton University, is alive, according to the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office.

She went missing in March while in Iraq conducting research for her dissertation.

According to the prime minister’s office, Tsurkov was kidnapped by the Shiite militia Kata’ib Hezbollah. The group is closely affiliated with Iran and has been linked to other kidnap attempts involving foreigners.

“The matter is being handled by the relevant parties in the State of Israel,” the office stated, adding it is holding Iraq responsible for her safety and well being. Tsurkov entered the country using a Russian passport.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Thursday he had no information about Tsurkov being taken hostage, reports The Washington Post.

The Israeli prime minister’s office did not specify the group’s demands, BBC News reports. Kata’ib Hezbollah was designated as a terrorist group by the U.S. in 2009.

Tsurkov is a non-resident fellow at the Newlines Institute for Strategy and Policy and a research associate at the Forum for Regional Thinking. Her research focuses on the Levant, particularly, the Syrian uprising and civil war, according to her website.

She is a doctoral student in Princeton University’s politics department. The school, in a statement posted to social media, said Tsurkov is a valued member of its community.

“We are deeply concerned for her safety and wellbeing, and we are eager for her to be able to rejoin her family and resume her studies,” the post stated.

Get daily updates from WHYY News!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal