six months "Tamar" didn't tell her family
about the event that shook her soul and psyche.
Nor did she tell authorities until she felt enough
time had passed to be out of danger.
Even now, she speaks publicly about her nightmare
only on condition that her real name not be used
nor her face shown.
Just last month, the 23-year old woman from Yerevan
filed a formal report claiming she was held against
her will in the Baku airport last April 27 while
on her way from Dubai to Russia.
While enroute to Nizhni Novgorod from her job
as an assistant manager in a Dubai hotel, the
Russian airlines craft carrying Tamar and about
35 other passengers and crew landed at Bina airport,
part of its normal route.
The flight routinely stops for refueling in Baku,
but never before had passengers been asked to
disembark from the plane while on the ground in
Being Armenian, she was nervous to be on "enemy"
soil but didn't expect what followed.
"I was blond and I thought probably this
fact would make them think that I wasn't Armenian,"
she recalls. "In the beginning I wanted to
stay in the plane, but stewardesses didn't let
me stay. I also tried not to show my passport,
but I heard a voice saying from behind: 'Check
all passports and number of passengers'. "
An Azeri official checking documents looked at
Tamar's passport, then left his post. He returned
with a group of men and Tamar was told: "You
The frightened girl asked why she would not be
allowed to leave, but got no reply.
Crew members knew Tamar because they stayed at
the hotel where she worked. They tried to intervene
in the matter, but were ignored as she was taken
away to a separate room.
There, she says, about 15 to 20 Azeris in military
and civil aviation uniform began questioning and
She says they threatened to kill her because,
according to them, an Azeri had been killed in
the Yerevan airport. (No such incident has been
"They told me that according to the Azerbaijani
legislation I was their hostage and that according
to the same law no Armenian had a right to be
on the territory of Azerbaijan.
"They made fun of me, threatened and cursed
me. They were telling me that after the plane's
departure they would rape and slaughter me. Or
they would exchange with Azeri captives. They
told me that this was my choice.
"My hope was that the plane wouldn't depart
without me and this more or less supported me.
I asked them what was my fault, what have I done?
Only because I am Armenian? The answers were followed
by cynical and impudent expressions.
" 'You don't understand that this is the
end for you', they were telling me. My impression
was that they finally got their victim and would
Each of them had antagonism towards me personally.
The hostility on their faces was terrible."
Two women in military uniform entered the room,
Tamar says, and made threatening comments toward
her, blaming her for Azeris killed in Karabakh.
says the only reason she was not harmed was because
of the Russians showing their support outside.
The flight crew told the officials it would not
depart Baku without Tamar.
After about 90 minutes, Tamar says, she was taken
from the first room to another, where three older
men of higher rank than the others put some documents
in her passport and told her that she was officially
She says the men said they would rape and kill
her and that they were just waiting for the plane
Outside, Tamar heard a crew member, Alexander
Puhov, tell the airport officials he would make
an international scandal if the girl was not allowed
More than five hours had passed since the plane
landed. Tamar was told to go and tell the others
goodbye. Stewardesses started screaming hysterically,
she says, and passengers were shouting.
One of the Azeris approached Tamar and suggested
that if she paid $1,000 she would be set free.
She started digging in her purse, but had no money.
The passengers and crew came up with $200, gave
it to the Azeris, and the girl was set free.
Before allowing departure, the officials entered
the plane and searched everyone's luggage. One
shone a light in Tamar's face and cursed her she
said. And another told her: "This time you
were lucky, but not next time."
"Everybody started to cry when we were finally
in the air," she says. "Two men from
the crew couldn't hide their tears. 'We have never
had such a feeling of horror,' they told me. I
lost my ability to speak, and I couldn't speak
and communicate to people for a few days."
From her purse, Tamar takes a notebook onto which
she had written phrases to communicate because
she was so shaken she couldn't talk. "I'm
sorry, I cannot talk. Please don't force me to
talk, I'll talk when I can," the phrases
written in Russian say.
Tamar has returned to stay in Yerevan since her
Dubai work contract expired. In November she told
her story to several different government and
Hovhannes Hovhannisyan, head of the National
Assembly Committee on Foreign Affairs, says Armenian
delegations that are engaged in foreign policy
will file complaints concerning Tamar's story.
"We should pursue this issue and it must
get a serious response from international organizations,
in order to prevent further similar incidents,"
A spokesperson at the Ministry of National Security
says the Ministry is aware of Tamar's claim, and
has notified appropriate agencies.
As Armenia and Azerbaijan do not have diplomatic
relations, the only avenue of investigating the
incident is through different international human
Eldar E. Zeynalov, director of the Human Rights
Center of Azerbaijan was in Yerevan this week
and told ArmeniaNow that the incident had been
reported in Baku media, but without any of the
details that Tamar has presented since.
"The fact is that the person was kept there
illegally," Zeynalov said. "We didn't
follow the case as far as she was set free quickly."
Zeynalov asked for a a copy of Tamar's complaint
and says his organization will pass it to the
"I consider the incident as inadmissible
and needing conviction," says Viktor Dallakyan
head of the Committee on State and Legal Issues,
who within the framework of Black Sea economic
cooperation (Azerbaijan is member of the cooperation)
is head of the Armenian delegation.
"This is a gross violation of human rights
and the Azerbaijani authorities had no right to
treat a citizen making a transit trip in that
way. No one has the right to (take someone hostage),
irrespective of interrelations between the two
Meanwhile Tamar says she doubts she'll ever forget
those hours in Baku. She says she was so shaken
that she didn't even tell her parents, until she
had decided to take her complaint to local authorities.
"I did not know what to do," she says.
"On one hand I was afraid of a clamor raised
around me. On the other hand it was difficult
to live with such a spiritual state. Besides,
I needed time to recover from the hard psychological