Wife of jailed Armenian civilian: “Our hearts have been torn apart”

Vicken Euljekjian, a Lebanese-born Armenian civilian, was abducted by Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno Karabakh on November 10, 2020, the day after a ceasefire ended the Second Karabakh War. He was sentenced to 20 years in jail. In December, Azerbaijan announced his release – only to change their minds at the last second. According to his wife, Vicken is in a very bad physical and mental state. CSI is campaigning for the release of all of Azerbaijan’s Armenian hostages.

Vicken Euljekjian and his wife Linda

Linda and Vicken Euljekjian in happier times. Libertas


On December 7 – three months after Azerbaijan’s dictatorship attacked and destroyed the ancient Armenian Christian community of Nagorno Karabakh – Azerbaijan made a surprise announcement: in exchange for Armenia releasing two Azerbaijani prisoners, Azerbaijan would soon release 32 of its Armenian hostages.  

Armenians and their supporters had mixed reactions to the news. Azerbaijan was holding between 50 and 130 Armenians hostage. These 32 represented as little as a quarter of the total. Once again, it seemed, Azerbaijan’s atrocities were being rewarded – soon after Azerbaijan announced the partial hostage release, it was announced that the oil-rich dictatorship would host next year’s UN climate change conference. 

Bitter disappointment 

The Euljekjian family, however, had reason to rejoice – their father and husband, Vicken, 43, appeared on a list of prisoners to be released that was published in the Azerbaijani state media. More than three years after Vicken, a civilian, had been kidnapped by Azerbaijani forces in Nagorno Karabakh, it seemed they would soon be reunited with him. 

When the prisoner exchange actually took place on December 13, however, Vicken was nowhere to be found. In a cruel twist, the Azerbaijani government seems to have substituted another Armenian prisoner for Vicken at the last moment. 

The news came as a heavy blow to Vicken’s wife Linda and their two children, who still live in Lebanon.Our hearts have been torn apart,” Linda wrote in a post on X (formerly Twitter).  “We pray to God to be with us.” 

A wartime disappearance 

 In November, Linda Euljekian told her family’s story in an interview with Libertas, a collective pushing for the release of Armenians held captive by Azerbaijan. 

Vicken was born in Beirut, Lebanon, where his family had fled to escaping the Armenian Genocide of 1915-1923. In 2017, Vicken left Lebanon because of the unstable economic situation. He settled in Armenia, where he worked as a taxi driver and later opened a restaurant with a Lebanese-Armenian business partner, Maral Najarian. But in 2020 the Covid pandemic forced them to close the business. 

“The situation was becoming more and more precarious,” Linda recalled. “At the time, the Artsakh government was offering housing assistance to anyone who wanted to move there from Armenia. Vicken found a place to live in Shushi [in Nagorno Karabakh]. We were supposed to join him there in 2020, but then the war broke out and he returned to Yerevan.” 

Azerbaijan’s 2020 attack on Nagorno Karabakh lasted 44 days, and killed thousands. On November 9, Azerbaijani forces conquered Shushi. Russia then forced an end to the fighting, and a ceasefire was announced.  

After the ceasefire, Vicken and Maral returned to Shushi to try to collect their belongings. But their car was stopped by Azerbaijani soldiers. Then they disappeared. 

“We had no news of him for a month,” said Linda. “I then learned from Lebanese television that my husband was alive and in captivity in Gobustan prison in Baku. After a further eight long months without news, I finally received a letter from Vicken through the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).” 

Forced confession 

His business partner, Maral Najarian, was forced by the Azerbaijani authorities into cooperating with them. In a “confession,” she said that Vicken had been paid for his services as a “mercenary” during the war. 

Najarian later said her confession had been extracted under torture and that none of it was true.  

But her testimony complicated the case for Vicken’s defense team. “Maral was freed thanks to the intervention of the Lebanese state, but unfortunately, because of her “confession,” Vicken was sentenced to 20 years in prison,” explained Linda. 

“I don’t recognize my husband” 

Linda receives a monthly letter from her husband delivered by the ICRC, and is allowed one phone call with him per month, which is closely monitored. 

“During the phone calls, Vicken tries to tell me in Arabic about the conditions in which he is being held, but his guards prevent him from doing so and force him to speak in Armenian as a means of control over him. But I don’t speak Armenian,” explained Linda. 

She says her husband is being fed a poor diet and has lost more than 15 kilos in weight. He is also suffering from memory problems. “I can see his condition gradually deteriorating as a result of the malnutrition and inhuman treatment he has suffered. He is denied medical care. 

“I no longer recognize my husband, his physical and psychological state has deteriorated so much; I haven’t been able to tell him about the recent death of his mother. How could I? He already lost his father and one of his brothers last year.” 

Linda is herself plagued by health problems that prevent her from working, including depression, chronic pain and respiratory problems. “My mother, who is blind, looks after me,” she said. 

The couple’s 20-year-old daughter has left university to support the family. Both she and her older brother are struggling with their father’s absence, Linda says. But they are determined not to give up. 

“The whole family has promised Vicken to fight until our last breath for his release,” said Linda. 


Petition · Support Linda Euljeckjian’s plea. Her husband, Vicken, has been unjustly detained in Baku. · Change.org 

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