Skip to content

U. student lobbies for state sanctions against Azerbaijan in exchange for detained former Rutgers researcher

A local advocacy organization recently collaborated with the son of former Rutgers postdoctoral professor Gubad Ibadoghlu to propose a bill restricting commerce between New Jersey and Azerbaijan until Ibadoghlu is released. – Photo by Photo by VOA /

Emin Bayramli, a School of Arts and Sciences senior, has drafted a potential state law forbidding New Jersey from entertaining commercial prospects with the country of Azerbaijan until his father, former Rutgers postdoctoral professor Gubad Ibadoghlu, is released from Azeri detention.

Ibadoghlu, a prominent critic of corrupt dealings led by the Azeri government, has been detained in his home country since July 23, 2023, as previously reported by The Daily Targum.

In a previous letter to the Targum, Bayramli said that, in detention, his father has been barred from receiving aid for his diabetes and other chronic ailments, as well as using his eyeglasses. 

The Targum spoke with Bayramli and representatives of the Armenian Organized Resistance (ARMOR) to discuss the origin of Bayramli's bill, denoted bill S1642, the future steps for its passage and its implications for Azeri–American relations. 

Bayramli said the process of creating this bill involved meetings with state Sen. Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and his staff. He said Zwicker revealed that New Jersey has historically imposed restrictions on trade with countries due to their historic human rights violations.

For example, in March 2022, Gov. Phil Murphy (D-N.J.) enacted a bill limiting trade with Russia and Belarus due to their involvement in Russia's invasion of Ukraine, according to a press release.

In a statement to the Targum, three ARMOR representatives said they created the organization to raise awareness about the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Our goals are basically to translate global injustice into local action, art and education that ultimately spreads awareness and holds accountable abusive and complicit entities, while ideally elevating the cultures and communities that they oppress," the ARMOR representatives said. "Part of that is also reminding people of their own power, as limited as it may be … That's why we're acting on this bill now — to let everybody know that there's something that they can do about this."

In their statement, the ARMOR representatives said they became involved in advocating for the passage of S1642 when they came across Bayramli's sister's profile online and later saw her share information about the bill. Additionally, they said they conducted a considerable amount of research into Ibadoghlu.

ARMOR's statement said it was evident that Ibadoghlu cared about his country and community, given his dedication to publicly criticizing the Azeri government and returning to Azerbaijan after doing so. They said it was particularly important to advocate for his release given his connection to the country and willingness to demand accountability from within.

Bayramli, who has been meeting with representatives at the state capitol, said the bill has drawn the ire of Azerbaijan's diplomats. He said he has observed Azeri officials several times in Trenton, presumably lobbying against the bill.

"I'm aware that the Azerbaijani embassy had called in multiple, multiple times asking for this bill to be taken out of (consideration)," he said. "(Officials) haven't provided me (with) much detail, anything other than 'They're just freaking out,' which is … I'm happy."

Bayramli said several high-profile Azeri officials have connections to New Jersey, meaning sanctions on Azerbaijan would impact their operations. The ARMOR representatives further said that sanctions imposed on Azerbaijan should only target its government, not Azeri citizens, given the country's high poverty rate.

Whether the bill passes will be determined by financial factors, Bayramli said. Those with more buying power will shape its outcome, he said. ARMOR's representatives echoed this sentiment before discussing the organization's future strategy in advancing S1642.

The ARMOR representatives spoke about a public awareness campaign aimed at inspiring people to act. This campaign would involve action-focused events formatted similarly to teach-ins that will educate and empower individuals to take action on this bill.

"In terms of next steps, this concept that 'You can buy votes, but you cannot buy hearts and minds' is very true," the ARMOR representatives said. "Most people do not understand why this bill is necessary, and most New Jersey residents would likely care that their tax dollars are tied up in business dealings with corrupt individuals or organizations connected to a repressive and oligarchic regime."

ARMOR's statement also discussed the importance of constructing coalitions, including groups in New York, Boston and Los Angeles. Alongside events and coalitions, ARMOR's representatives said the group is looking for spaces to host lectures and presentations and plans to use flyers and a postcard campaign to increase awareness.

ARMOR's representatives said the bill's progression is currently being hindered by state Sen. James Beach (D-6), who has had access to the bill for several weeks without taking action. Given that New Jersey's sixth legislative district is home to Rutgers—Camden, Bayramli said he urges individuals affiliated with the campus to contact Beach.

"This bill is a strong indication of New Jersey backing up (its) own former professor and (its) own residents," Bayramli said. "This bill really, really has a chance to make a lot of changes, and that's what matters the most: that this bill could make a change and set a precedent that other states could follow."

Related Articles

Join our newsletterSubscribe