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Say, when are you coming back?

"My husband is our hero. We love, respect and admire him deeply"

 

Testimony of Linda, wife of prisoner Vicken Euljeckjian.



Vicken Euljeckjian and his wife Linda
Vicken Euljeckjian and his wife Linda

Vicken Euljeckjian is one of the few civilians illegally detained in Azerbaijan following the 44-day war in Artsakh. Born in Beirut into a family of Armenian genocide survivors, Vicken left Lebanon because of the unstable economic situation to settle in Armenia in 2017. Linda, his wife and mother of his two children Serge (23) and Christine (20), bears witness from Beirut to the ordeal the family has been living through since 2020.

 

What did your husband do before the 2020 war?

 

"Vicken ran a café in Beirut the last few years he was in Lebanon," Linda sums up. 

 

In 2015, Vicken decided to move to Armenia. Two years later, after several trips back and forth between Armenia and Lebanon, he decided to settle in Armenia with his family. Their daughter is due to complete her studies in 2019, so Linda will remain in Lebanon with their children for the time being.

 

In Armenia, Vicken started work as a cab driver, then decided to open a restaurant with a colleague, Maral Najarian. Because of Covid, they had to close the restaurant and Vicken resumed his taxi-driving business.

 

"The situation was becoming increasingly precarious. At the time, the Artsakh government was offering a housing assistance program to anyone wishing to settle in Artsakh. Vicken managed to secure accommodation in Shushi, and Maral Najarian - in Stepanakert.

We were due to join him in September 2020, but war broke out and Vicken went to Yerevan.

During the last days of the war, Vicken and his colleague went to Artsakh to collect their belongings. They first went to Stepanakert, where Maral lived, and then headed for Shushi.

But as soon as they arrived in Shushi, the Azerbaijani military arrested them. And when they searched my husband's phone, they found photos of him in military uniform, which was enough to capture them both," explains Linda.

 


Vicken Euljeckjian, one of the rare civilians illegally detained by Azerbaijan
Vicken Euljeckjian, one of the rare civilians illegally detained by Azerbaijan


How did you find out he'd been taken prisoner?

 

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

 

Under torture, Maral was forced to cooperate with the Azerbaijani authorities, who dictated to her a confession to the effect that Vicken had received the sum of 2,500 dollars for his services as a "mercenary" during the war".

 

It should be pointed out that mercenarism is a proven fact concerning Azerbaijan: Baku did indeed use Pakistani and Syrian mercenaries during the war in Artsakh in 2020. Armenia managed to capture some of them, who were subsequently tried for "terrorism". In order to defend themselves, the Azerbaijanis therefore needed to accuse Vicken of being a mercenary, and the only "proof" they managed to get was Maral's "confession".

 

Later, in an ECHR report, Maral admitted that her confession had been extracted under torture and that none of it was true.

 

"Vicken's case is therefore very special among the cases of other Armenian POWs, and more complex for defense lawyers. Maral was freed thanks to the intervention of the Lebanese state, but unfortunately, because of his 'confession', Vicken was sentenced to 20 years in prison," laments his wife.

 

Are you able to communicate with him at present?

 

"Thanks to the Red Cross, I receive a letter every month, and I'm able to talk to him on the phone once. During the phone calls, Vicken tries to explain to me in Arabic the truth about his detention conditions, but his guards prevent him from doing so and force him to speak in Armenian for reasons of control. I don't speak Armenian. I know that he's very weak and that prison conditions are very harsh.

 

The only food he is served is rice; he has lost over 15 kilos and suffers from memory problems. I can see his condition gradually deteriorating due to the malnutrition and inhuman treatment he has suffered. All care is denied him.

 

I no longer recognize my husband, so much has his physical and psychological state deteriorated; I was unable to tell him of his mother's recent death. How could I? He already lost his father and one of his brothers last year.

 

As for me, I suffer from numerous health problems: depression, chronic pain, respiratory problems, complications linked to the after-effects of COVID. I can't afford to pay for my health care, and my condition simply doesn't allow me to work. My mother, who is blind, is dependent on me, and the three of us live with my daughter in a small apartment."

 

Since Linda has been trying to raise the case of her husband Vicken Euljeckjian's detention, she has become the target of insults, mockery and online speculation. Once, for example, an article claimed that Vicken had died in prison. On social media, Azeri users are constantly calling out Linda, making fun of her, addressing her with obscenities, or lying about Vicken's condition... In the case of Vicken and his family, anti-Armenian hatred is expressed without limit.

 


Vicken Euljeckjian sentenced to 20 years in prison by Baku
Vicken Euljeckjian sentenced to 20 years in prison by Baku


How are your children coping with this ordeal?

 

"My daughter Christina left university and now works to support the family. Serge lives with his fiancée. He works as a jeweler in a company.

 

Our children are deeply unhappy and traumatized by the videos of their father being tortured; my daughter is under the care of a psychologist, but my son refuses any psychological help. He wants to be strong and the man of the family; he refuses to get married as long as his father is rotting in Azerbaijani jails.

 

The whole family has promised Vicken to fight until his last breath for his release. We love, respect and admire him deeply.

 

I have appealed for help several times on social networks; my daughter has launched a fund-raising campaign to enable us to pay for lawyers, but we have received no help.

Our only hope lies with the Armenian lawyers who are doing everything they can.

 

My husband is our hero. His children miss him terribly. I miss him every day".



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