Michael Sukkar MP

Federal Member for Deakin
Shadow Minister for Social Services
Shadow Minister for the NDIS
Shadow Minister for Housing
Shadow Minister for Homelessness
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Adjournment Debate: Azerbaijan

It’s critically important that this evening I shed light on a monumental issue concerning the republic of Azerbaijan, a nation nestled among the Caucasus mountains, next to the Caspian Sea. With a population of 10 million, Azerbaijan boasts abundant natural resources, particularly gas and oil; yet it is tarnished by a regime marked by corruption and oppression. For three decades, Azerbaijan has been under the rule of a single family, taking advantage of its vast fossil fuel wealth to perpetuate autocratic policies both domestically and internationally. This regime seeks to whitewash its image through the hosting of prestigious events, like the Formula 1 Grand Prix, UEFA Euro 2020, and COP 29, using these prestigious occasions to sanitise its tarnished reputation.

Recently, I had the honour of meeting journalist Alexander Lapshin, who shared his story of survival with me. In 2016, Lapshin was arrested in Belarus and extradited to Azerbaijan for simply travelling to Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, a disputed territory, which, since 2023, has been subject to ethnic cleansing of its indigenous Armenian inhabitants by Azerbaijan, after a 10-month siege and a 24-hour military assault, leaving over 100,000 people homeless. During our meeting he informed me that he’d spent seven months in solitary confinement in Azerbaijan before an assassination attempt that saw him extradited to Israel for his own safety. His supposed crime? Travelling to a disputed territory, refusing to say that Karabakh is Azerbaijan, and calling out the Azerbaijani regime for what it was and what it is—a dictatorship. Both the European Court of Human Rights and the United Nations Human Rights Committee correctly found that Azerbaijan was liable for its illegal torture and arrests, but it will come as no surprise that the dictatorship of Azerbaijan ignored the decisions of such internationally respected bodies.

There is no doubt that Azerbaijan is one of the world’s most brutal and criminal regimes, on a par with those of Iran and Russia. Azerbaijan’s litany of crimes genuinely knows no bounds. From bombing Armenian churches to imprisoning journalists and opposition activists, the regime’s brutality is truly staggering. They have even occupied sovereign territory of Armenia and jailed government officials from Artsakh. Yet they continue to evade accountability through bribery and lavish events such as the upcoming COP 29.

Sadly, what’s more disturbing is the infiltration of this regime’s influence into our own backyard. Victorian Labor MP Natalie Suleyman has aligned herself with Azerbaijan’s interests, proudly hosting its representatives, despite their egregious and well-documented human rights abuses.

As Australians, we can never turn a blind eye to such injustice. I implore the Australian government to stand up to this regime, sanction Azerbaijan and hold this criminal petro-dictatorship accountable for its countless human rights violations against journalists, opposition activists and Armenians.

Finally, I implore all Australians to boycott COP 29. No Australian should step foot on the soil of a regime that is covered in the blood of Armenians and journalists. Any visit to this regime would simply represent a despicable act, and I know that a majority of Australians, if they truly understood and were made aware of the outrageous injustices perpetuated by the regime in Azerbaijan, would stand with me in calling out such shameful acts and encourage no Australian to step foot on Azerbaijani soil at COP 29.

Click here for a PDF copy of the Hansard extract for this speech