Yellow Ribbon Project

Wife of U.S. Hostage Held by Iran Comes to D.C. to Ask Congress, Administration for Help

The wife of an American hostage held by Iran for nearly two years was in Washington this week to plead her husband’s case to lawmakers and administration officials.


Xiyue Wang is a fourth-year doctoral candidate in late 19th and early 20th century Eurasian history at Princeton University. He was arrested in Iran while conducting academic research on the administrative and cultural history of the late Qajar dynasty in connection with his Ph.D. dissertation.

Wang was arrested in August 2016 after Iran said he was scanning large quantities of documents and sending digital scans to the State Department, Princeton and Harvard. His doctoral adviser said Wang was scanning historical documents — a “normal, standard scholarly practice” — that were about 100 years old.

Wang got his bachelor’s degree at the University of Washington and studied at Harvard before Princeton. He speaks English, Mandarin, Persian, Turkish and Pashto.

He and his wife, Hua Qu, have a 5-year-old son.

For two days this week, Qu visited with members of Congress and the Trump administration as “part of ongoing efforts to reunite her young family by securing the unconditional release of her husband Xiyue from Iranian captivity,” said the office of attorney Jason Poblete.

“My husband and I do not want to be in the middle of JCPOA politics. That put him in this mess to begin with,” Qu said. “This is about human rights. I am fighting to keep my family together and I need your help.”


In April, she sent a letter to President Trump and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo via a senior member of Congress, stressing that Xiyue is innocent and urging Trump that “before negotiating any deal with Iran, please remember the innocent scholar that is being held by the Iranian regime solely because he is an American.”

Wang is being held in Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison, Qu said during a May vigil at Princeton, “in an area that is mostly underground, cold and dark, overcrowded, and infested by bedbugs.”

“As an American and a non-Muslim, Xiyue has been subjected to abuse and harsh interrogations by the Iranian authorities,” she said.

Wang’s friend Dong Xiang said at the rally that Xiyue is actively exchanging ideas with others in prison “in order to maintain his intellectual capacity and mental health.”

Swiss authorities have visited Wang on behalf of the U.S. multiple times since his August 2016 arrest, the State Department says.

“I miss him terribly,” Qu said. “As time goes by, I fear more and more for his safety.”

Join the conversation as a VIP Member