Armenian Captive Was Civilian, Says Family

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Grieving relatives of the Armenian man who died in Azerbaijani captivity this week joined official Yerevan on Thursday in insisting that he was a civilian, rather than a military serviceman sent to Azerbaijan on a sabotage mission.

Some of them also said that Armenia’s government did not do enough to free and repatriate Manvel Saribekian before he was found hanged in an Azerbaijani detention facility.

The Azerbaijani authorities claimed that the 20-year-old “saboteur” committed suicide and had no traces of violence on his body. Armenian officials dismissed these claims, saying that he was tortured to death or “driven to suicide.”

They also said that Saribekian was a civilian resident of Tutujur, a border village in the northeastern Gegharkunik province, demobilized from the Armenian army four months before being captured by Azerbaijani troops in the area. They say he crossed a nearby section of the Armenian-Azerbaijani frontier by accident.

Saribekian’s mother, Siranush Balian, and other close relatives, confirmed this as they spoke to RFE/RL’s Armenian service in Tutujur. They said that the young man had scraped a modest living for his impoverished family by selling firewood since ending his military service in May. They said he went missing on September 11 after going to a nearby forest to collect more firewood and graze the family’s sole cow in the process.

“Please, bring my son back dead or alive,” cried Balian. “This is all I am asking for … My heart tells me that my child is alive.”

The mother of four also pleaded with the Armenian military to demobilize her second son currently serving in the army. “We have no breadwinner anymore,” she said. “Can they free my other son from the army?”

Saribekian’s aunt, Emma Balian, charged that the Armenian government is also responsible for his death. “They could negotiate [with Azerbaijan] and reach agreement and swap the boy with Azerbaijani prisoners of war, but they failed to do that,” she told RFE/RL. “Facts show that our leadership didn’t deal with the matter,” she claimed.

According to Balian, Saribekian’s father was not allowed into the Armenian Defense Ministry when he traveled to Yerevan late last month to inquire about his son’s whereabouts. “They told him to come back in three months,” she said.

Meanwhile, the political parties represented in Armenia’s parliament urged on Thursday the United Nations, the European Union and other international bodies to condemn Saribekian’s treatment by Azerbaijan. In a joint appeal initiated by the opposition Heritage party, they also demanded an international forensic examination of Saribekian’s body that would involve Armenian experts.

“Azerbaijan’s sense of impunity is reaching new heights,” Stepan Safarian, a Heritage deputy, told RFE/RL.

Whether the body will be sent back to Armenia anytime soon is not yet clear. The International Committee of the Red Cross reiterated through a Yerevan spokesman that it is holding “confidential” negotiations on the matter with Azerbaijani officials.


Discussion Policy

Comments are welcomed and encouraged. Though you are fully responsible for the content you post, comments that include profanity, personal attacks or other inappropriate material will not be permitted. Asbarez reserves the right to block users who violate any of our posting standards and policies.


  1. SIRVART said:

    The Armenian government could have negotiated with the Azeri’s for Saribekian’s behalf. Those Azeris/Tatars haven’t changed for a hundred years. They used to do the same or worse in the 50’s and in the 60’s to any young boy or a young man civilian that they came across to. They never changed their belligerent behaviours for a hundred years.

  2. FrankM said:

    All Armenians were touched by what happened to Manvel Saribekian.
    When I saw that video clip on Youtube I went into depression
    I hope our country will make these people pay for what they did our son

  3. Ed said:

    There should be no doubt that this young Armenian man, Manvel Saribekian, is being kidnapped (most probably even inside Armenian territory) and later hanged by terrorist regime in Baku! The regime in Baku was in dead body of an Armenian interested. The criminals in Baku couldn’t execute him simply by shooting him – simply for different reasons …! What this criminal and terrorist regime in Baku did reminds all of us to the actions of extremist and criminal gangs, who are kidnapping civilians /people, making videos and later killing/decapitate them ….

  4. eddy said:

    This young Armenian being kidnapped by criminal and terrorist Azerbaijani regime and tortured to dead.. Armenian ombudsman should write a letter to “YouTube” and other human right organisation, demanding the removal of all propaganda videos and material, which criminal regime in Baku has produced and posted to internet! Beside this RA government and the family of Manvel should sue the fascist Azerbaijani government …

  5. Anonymous said:

    The real criminals and terrorist are the authorities in the Republic of Azerbijan/Baku and people who post such propaganda videos to YouTube! . Shame on these Azerbaijani officials!! This 20 years old young Armenian man (civilian, Manvel Saribekyan) is being kidnapped by Azerbaijan commandos near Armenian Azerbaijani border on September 2010. The Video shows a lost shepherd in Azerbaijani captivity, who was looking for his missing cattle and crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijani border,

    The 20 years old young Armenian man (civilian, Manvel Saribekyan) is being kidnapped by Azerbaijan commandos near Armenian Azerbaijani border on September 2010. The Video shows a lost shepherd in Azerbaijani captivity, who was looking for his missing cattle and crossed the Armenia-Azerbaijani border,

    1- As everybody can see in the propaganda video this man is sitting confused, astonied , debilitated and repeating by heart like a robot, what criminal and terrorist regime in Baku likes to hear!

    2- This man is being kept 25 day alive in Azerbaijani captivity, tortured and pumped by special drugs

    3- After that the terrorist regime in Baku has made this propaganda video. In this Video this shepherd is repeating what Azerbaijani secret service and Azerbaijani ruling regime likes to hear ( world knows such videos made by well known terrorist groups)

    4- Committee of the Red Cross were not allow to met this Young Armenian man.

    5- After broadcasting the propaganda interview and posting of videos in internet, most probably this man is being asked by his tormentor to confirm his faked interview and statements in a way which sounds “true” and to ask for Asylum, while getting visited by International Committee of the Red Cross or members of UN !

    6- After refusing to cooperate with criminal regime in Baku, this man is being either hanged or made to committee suicide!

    This crime of criminal authorities in Baku should be strictly condemned and justice should be brought those who are guilty for kidnapping and captive’s death!

    Azerbaijan’s official version of suicide is an attempt to avoid responsibility, as even marks of violence could be found on Saribekyan’s body in posted propaganda video!.