After a video purportedly showing kidnapped Princeton doctoral student Elizabeth Tsurkov appeared on an Iraqi television station earlier this week, her family told PAW via email that “it is great news to see this confirmation of her being alive.”
In the four-minute-long video — the first sighting of Tsurkov since she was kidnapped in Iraq in March — Tsurkov speaks in Hebrew; the video has Arabic subtitles. Though it’s not known where or when the video was filmed, Tsurkov makes reference to the war between Israel and Hamas and Gazan hostages, indicating it was after the Oct. 7 attack on Israel by Hamas.
PAW could not confirm the authenticity of the video or determine if Tsurkov was speaking under duress. It was first shown on Monday on Al Rabiaa TV, a station The New York Times reports is “associated with Shiite political parties.”
According to an English translation of the video, Tsurkov said she worked for two intelligence organizations — Mossad, Israel’s national intelligence agency, and the CIA — which her family denies.
In their statement, the Tsurkov family also said, “We will not comment on the substance of what [Elizabeth] says because we assume it was coerced, but we do note that she appears as well as can be expected and the video appears to have been [shot] relatively recently. The release of this video is an important step in the effort to bring her home to her family, where she belongs.”
“Any time a proof of life video is shared, it is an opportunity to start a dialogue. This is a positive development,” said Mickey Bergman, vice president and executive director of the Richardson Center for Global Engagement, a nongovernmental organization with expertise in hostage negotiations that the Tsurkov family has been working with.
Though no group has claimed responsibility for the kidnapping, in a July statement, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Tsurkov is being held by Kataib Hezbollah, which has ties to both Iraq and Iran and is considered a terrorist organization by the United States government.
Tsurkov, who is a dual Israeli-Russian citizen, also said in the video that “I am told there has been no movement in terms of trying to get me released” and asked her family and friends to do more on her behalf.
“I am in a difficult situation,” Tsurkov said.
The University declined to comment on this latest development. Spokesman Michael Hotchkiss previously said Princeton administrators are in contact with Israeli and U.S. government officials and that the University is “deeply concerned about the safety and well-being of Princeton graduate student Elizabeth Tsurkov and are eager for her to be released so she can rejoin her family and resume her studies.”
Hotchkiss confirmed last month that Tsurkov was enrolled at the University and conducting research related to her approved Ph.D. dissertation topic in Iraq when she was abducted.
Transcription provided by Anna Braverman.