Armenian woman held captive by Azerbaijan finally released

Maral Najarian pictured after her release with ARF Lebanon Committee members Raffi Demirjian (left) and Vicken Koujanian (right)

By Linda Berberian

The Armenian Weekly

After spending four grueling months in captivity in Azerbaijan, civilian war hostage Maral Najarian has safely arrived in Lebanon.

According to Najarian’s nephew Hovig Seferian, the 49 year-old Lebanese Armenian, who was released from a high-security prison near Baku on Wednesday, was finally reunited with her family at the Beirut-Hariri International Airport at around 9:30 p.m. local time. Seferian spoke with his aunt during a jubilant video call as soon as she landed.

“We have all waited for so long to get this news, and I still can’t believe it,” he told the Weekly. “I wish I could see her right now in person, but I have to wait because I’m in Armenia. I’m just so excited that I got to talk to her on the video call and that she is home safe,” he said. Seferian said his aunt looked exhausted, but relieved to be home. “Thank God we survived this ordeal,” commented Seferian, who says her sister will be staying at her mother’s house.

Najarian was tearfully greeted by her two children Rita and Koko during an emotional reunion. “I missed you,” she told her nephew during their video call.

“My heart is so full, and I’m so happy that she’s finally home,” said Seferian in an interview with the Armenian Weekly. “I’m just happy the nightmare is over, and she is safe,” she continued. Seferian tells the Weekly that her sister was not tortured and that she did undergo a medical evaluation while in prison. She was given medication for hypertension.

At around 8 a.m. local time on Wednesday, Najarian was flown from Azerbaijan to Istanbul, Turkey where she was held most of the day.

Najarian, along with her sister Ani, repatriated to Artsakh from Lebanon just before the start of the war on September 17. On November 9, Najarian notified her sister that she was in Goris and would be heading towards Shushi to retrieve her belongings with her friend Viken Euljekjian, a fellow Lebanese Armenian. That would be the last time the sisters would speak. Najarian and Euljekjian were kidnapped in Berdzor by Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces. Euljekjian is still in captivity.

In February, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), representatives of which visited Najarian during her captivity at Gobustan prison, played a significant role in her ultimate release. The ICRC immediately contacted her relatives informing them her condition was good, although an official health evaluation by a physician was not conducted at the time.

Najarian’s case garnered the attention of the international community, Armenian media and thousands of users on social media calling for her release.

After almost four months since the end of the Artsakh War, there are still more than 120 POWs held captive by Azerbaijan, including at least three more women who were kidnapped after the ceasefire agreement and some 1,600 military personnel and civilians from the region still missing.

“I also think about the many Armenians still missing, some of them who also went to get their belongings in Artsakh after the war ended and then disappeared. Azerbaijan needs to return them all,” Seferian said.

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