Elham Cicippio confirmed on Wednesday that she and her husband, Joseph, have put their Beaux Arts Observatory Circle residence on the market. The listing price is $4.35 million for the house at 2732 34th Street, Northwest. The name Joseph Cicippio will always be in the history books, as he was a central figure in the Lebanon hostage crisis of the late ’80s and early ’90s. Cicippio was kidnapped by Iranian terrorists in January 1987, when he was the comptroller at the American university in Beirut. He was held for five years and freed in December 1991.
Several years later, after he and other hostages filed lawsuits, Cicippio and his wife were awarded $30 million in a judgment against the Iranian government. The money came from frozen Iranian assets held by the US Treasury. In 2005, a federal judge in DC awarded Cicippio’s family members $91 million for the emotional distress they suffered while he was held captive. That money was also collected from frozen Iranian assets. That money has never been distributed to the family members, according to Joseph Cicippio in a phone interview. “We were told there were no more Iranian frozen assets that could be allocated to this award,” he says. The award remains active but, he says, “I don’t think it will ever get paid.” Cicippio, who is 83, says that after he was released and returned to the US he moved to Princeton, New Jersey, then to Virginia, and to DC in 2000. “That’s when we bought this house,” he says. “We’ve put our heart and soul into it.”
In the years since his release he wrote a memoir, Chains to Roses, published in 1993, and became the chief financial officer at USAID. He tried retirement 13 years ago, “but I went bananas, because I’ve always worked since I was in eighth grade. I have to work every day. It keeps me young.” He now has an IT company, Technical Specialities, in Lanham, Maryland.
The Cicippios bought the four-bedroom house for $2.1 million. Elham Cicippio said the couple had not yet decided where they will move next, but the 34th Street house had become too big for just the two of them. Joseph says they are still deciding whether to remain in the Washington area.
According to the New York Times, Cicippio was held captive by the Iranian-allied Revolutionary Justice Organization, who publicly threatened to kill him three times. The Lebanon hostage crisis spanned a decade from 1982 to ’92. During that time 96 hostages were kidnapped and held captive, including 25 Americans, two of whom were killed: the CIA’s William Francis Buckley and Marine colonel William Higgins.
Cicippio says he has moved on from the episode. “I don’t have animosity,” he says. “It’s not in my makeup. We don’t speak about it. I was captured. I was held. It’s over.” He says he did not get therapy except for the debriefers who talked with him on the flights from Damascus, where he was released, to Germany, where he was examined, and back to the US. He said he keeps in touch with only one fellow hostage, who is French.
This post has been updated throughout.