House debates

Thursday, 30 November 2023

Constituency Statements

Human Rights: Armenia

10:05 am

Photo of Julian LeeserJulian Leeser (Berowra, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

In recent weeks the world's attention has rightly been focused on the aftermath of the Hamas terror attacks in Israel. We've also seen Putin's war on Ukraine, where autocrats and dictators are seeking to enforce their will on others. Less remarked upon but just as important is that the Armenian people are witnessing a new era of genocidal crimes against them. In 2020 the Azerbaijani dictator Aliyev launched a premeditated attack on the Republic of Artsakh. Azerbaijan used drones, targeted civilians and destroyed community gathering points such as schools and churches. Targeting of Armenian churches in Artsakh mirrors activity undertaken a century ago during the Armenian genocide. Azerbaijan executed POWs and deployed illegal white phosphorous bombs—the bombs that melt skin.

The 2020 attack was a forerunner of what was to come. In December last year a group of Azerbaijanis blocked the Lachin corridor, which is the lifeline road that connects Armenia to Artsakh. The goal was clear: starve the people of food, medicine, supplies and gas. In February, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to open the corridor and they refused. As an International Criminal Court prosecutor remarked, 'Starvation is the invisible genocide weapon.'

On 19 September this year, following a 10-month blockade, Azerbaijan undertook a 24-hour military assault. It was a final choke. The choice for the people of Artsakh was stark: leave or die—put another way: genocide or ethnic cleansing. Over 100,000 Indigenous Armenians fled their homes, leaving everything—homes, clothing, pets and memories—and taking little more than what was on their back. Old people left their only world, and children left the security of their homes. Fewer than a thousand people remain in Artsakh, and, for the first time in 5,000 years, the region has been emptied of its Armenian inhabitants.

All through the terrible actions of the past years, we see the invisible hand of the Turkish tyrant Erdogan. The evidence is that he stands in wait for a full-scale war on Armenia. My hope is that Turkiye as well as Azerbaijan will take a step back from the brink. That starts with the release of political prisoners, hostages and POWs held by Azerbaijan, and it must include the right of ethnic Armenians to return home to Artsakh. Solidarity matters, and words matter because they sustain hope. I stand with my Armenian friends, as so many Australians do.

I commend the Armenian National Committee of Australia for its work highlighting what has been happening in Artsakh. It was wonderful to meet the committee's youth advocates recently. I met with Vache Kechichian, Noobar Chahinian, Sebastian Majarian, Maral Keerfork and Isabelle Parazyan. They are purposeful, passionate and optimistic and a reminder of the wonderful multicultural country we have. It's right we acknowledge our friends the Armenian people. It's right that we stand in solidarity with the Republic of Artsakh. May the people of Artsakh be free to return safely to their homes soon.