Princeton students unite to demand release of fellow student, professor stands firm

The plight of kidnapped Israeli graduate student Elizabeth Tsurkov is on the radar for students at Princeton University in New Jersey who are organizing to press for her release from Kataib Hezbollah’s captivity in Iraq.

The student newspaper The Daily Princetonian on Friday reported last week that a graduate student circulated an email as part of campaign on a student list with the call to “help save our colleague’s life!”

According to the paper, “The message encouraged students to send letters to Congress to bring attention to the situation” of Tsurkov, who was kidnapped by the Iranian regime-backed terrorist organization Kataib Hezbollah in March, 2023.

“Our main goal is just making sure that she’s not forgotten,” Narrelle Gilchrist, a graduate student organizer with the campaign, said, according to The Daily Princetonian.

Tsurkov’s family is appealing to the Princeton community to send letters to congress to win Elizabeth’s freedom, the student paper wrote. “Her case has not gotten enough attention until now, and her life is in danger,” noted the email. Tsurkov was conducting research at the the time in Iraq for her PhD.

Pro-Iranian regime professor refuses to aid in releasing kidnapped student

The author of The Daily Princetonian article, Bridget O’Neill, reported that, in November, the House Committee on Education and the Workforce sent a letter to Princeton President Christopher L. Eisgruber covering an investigation into the university’s pro-Islamic Republic of Iran academic Seyed Hossein Mousavian.

The congressional representatives wrote “Elizabeth Tsurkov, a Princeton doctoral student, is currently being held hostage in Iraq by Iran-backed militias. Has Princeton asked Mousavian to assist in Tsurkov’s release? Has Mousavian offered to use his contacts to try to free Tsurkov?

The Jerusalem Post on Sunday approached Mousavian and Princeton University spokesman Michael Hotchkiss for comments.

The congressional representatives requested that Eisgruber answer their questions about Mousavian’s alleged failure to aid the Chinese-American scholar Xiyue Wang, who kidnapped by the clerical regime in August, 2016 and released in December, 2019.

“Based on my understanding that Mousavian did not help me I would guess he is not working to help Tsurkov,” Wang told Iran International in November,

Mousavian told Iran International “neither [Hassan] Rouhani as the then-president, nor [Mohammad Javad] Zarif as the then-foreign minister had no power, influence and authority to intervene in Wang’s case. In 2009, an Iranian court sentenced the brother of President Hassan Rouhani, Hossein Fereydoun, to five years in prison.”

Wang fired back that “The problem is not really whether Zarif or Rouhani could help. The problem is Mousavian decided he was not going to do anything.”

Mousavian’s insidious ties to the regime

The embattled pro-Iran regime lobbyist, Mousavian, is facing a high-intensity grassroots campaign from the Alliance Against Islamic Regime of Iran Apologists (AAIRIA) to compel Princeton to dismiss him due to his alleged role in overseeing the assassination of Iranian dissidents in Europe in the 1990’s, including the murder of Kurdish dissidents at the Mykonos restaurant in Berlin in 1992.

Mousavian was Iran’s ambassador to Germany between 1990-1997.

AAIRIA wrote in a Wednesday statement that “In the seven years Mousavian served as IRI’s ambassador in Germany, more than 23 Iranians were killed in terrorist attacks on European soil orchestrated by IRI…These heinous acts underscore the direct involvement of the IRI embassy in Bonn and Mousavian’s role in Iran’s state-sponsored terrorism and orchestrating violence against innocent civilians.”

In 1997, a Berlin court convicted one Iranian regime agent and three Lebanese men for the assassination of the Kurdish dissidents in the Mykonos restaurant.

AAIRIA has launched a petition campaign that has garnered over 1,000 signatures calling on Princeton to sack Mousavian.

Parviz Dastamalchi, who witnessed the 1992 Mykonos assassination, said Mr. Abolghasem Mesbahi, known as ‘Witness C,’ was one of the founders of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran. In February 1997, Misbahi, under oath, testified, before the German court regarding the role of Seyed Hossein Mousavian in the assassination of Kurdish leaders at the Mykonos restaurant.

Head of Iran’s IAEA delegation Mousavian listens to a journalist’s question prior to IAEA board of governors meeting in Vienna. The head of Iran’s International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delegation, Hossein Mousavian listens to a journalist’s question before the U.N. nuclear watchdog meeting to d (credit: HERWIG PRAMMER/REUTERS)

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s spiritual leader, and President Hashemi Rafsanjani, were accused of ordering and approving the killings. ”The Iranian political leadership ordered this crime,” said the Berlin Judge, Frithjof Kubsch at the time, adding, ”They made a decision to silence an uncomfortable voice. This is an official liquidation measure ordered without a verdict.” Iran’s ruling leadership at the time were the current Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and the late President Hashemi Rafsanjanim. Mousavian was aligned at the time with the Rafsanjanim political camp.

Mesbahi stated, “Mr. Mousavian has participated in most of the assassinations committed in Europe.” His statements were widely reported in the German media during the trial.”

According to a 1997 article in the Berlin-based newspaper Tagesspiegel, Mesbahi told the court during the Mykonos trial that “Mousavian participated in most of the crimes that took place in Europe.” The article said the court attached great importance to Meshbai’s testimony, and he was viewed as a “credible” witness. Mousavian campaigned in the German media at the time to discredit Mesbahi.

Golaleh Sharafkandi, the niece of Kurdish opposition leader Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi, one of the victims of the Mykonos assassination, said “One of the most brazen and public assassinations carried out by Hezbollah at the behest of its master, the Islamic Regime of Iran, occurred in 1992, when IRI operatives killed my uncle, Dr. Sadegh Sharafkandi.”

Sharafkandi, a former political prisoner, who lives in Sweden, said, “The Mykonos restaurant assassination was carried out by the Iranian regime when Seyed Hossein Mousavian was Iran’s ambassador to Germany. We, especially in the academic world, need to be clear that using diplomatic immunity to cover up or facilitate the Islamic Regime of Iran’s terrorist actions on international soil is unacceptable and not condoned by academia.”

In a Sunday opinion article in Iran International, Majid Mohammadi,  an Iranian-American sociologist, explained why Iranian dissidents are campaigning for Princeton to fire Mousavian: “Terrorism, as exemplified by Mousavian’s actions, is a grave matter not to be trivialized…Such callous disregard for human life is reprehensible and underscores the urgent need for accountability.”