The sister of an Israeli-Russian academic who has been held hostage in Iraq since March has called on the United States to intervene to help secure her release.
“The current level of pressure is unsatisfactory. It’s just not enough,” Emma Tsurkov said in an interview with the Associated Press published on Wednesday.
“My sister is languishing in the hands of this terror organization, and it’s been almost six months,” she said.
In July, Arab sources reported that Princeton University researcher Elizabeth Tsurkov had been abducted after initiating a meeting with members of the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah (“The Battalions of the Party of God”).
The U.S. has designated Kata’ib Hezbollah (a separate and distinct organization from the Lebanese Hezbollah group) as a terrorist organization.
Tsurkov met with Ahmed Alewani, who gave her access to his son, David Muhammad Alewani—a senior Kata’ib Hezbollah official.
During their second meeting, the Alewanis discovered that she was Israeli and decided to kidnap her.
The sources said that there had been at least one attempt to move Tsurkov to Iran, but that it was not clear whether this attempt was successful.
Tsurkov, 36, a Princeton doctoral candidate and nonresident fellow at the Washington think tank New Lines Institute for Strategy and Policy, entered Iraq using a Russian passport, visiting the Kurdistan Region before heading to the Iraqi capital.
Emma Tsurkov met in Washington this week with U.S State Department, Israeli and Russian officials, according to AP, which noted that Iraqi diplomats “blew [her] off.”
While Tsurkov is not a U.S. citizen, Emma is pressing Washington to use its financial support to Iraq as leverage to secure her sister’s freedom.
“I really never wanted to do any of this. But I realized that everyone is interested but no one is going to do anything to actually bring her home,” Emma told AP. “And everyone is just hoping that someone else does. Passing the buck. But at the end of the day, I don’t see anything being done to bring my sister back.”
In July, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu confirmed that “Elizabeth Tsurkov is still alive, and we hold Iraq responsible for her safety and well-being.”
He added: “The matter is being handled by the relevant parties in the State of Israel out of concern for Elizabeth Tsurkov’s security.”