Bring me the ear of Akram Aylisli! Politician offers £8,000 for attack on writer

Head of political party offers £8,000 for author's body part over controversial novel

Moscow

A politician in Azerbaijan has offered a cash reward for anyone who slices off the ear of a controversial writer – the latest twist in an alleged hate campaign waged by the country’s authoritarian government in an apparent attempt to distract attention from internal issues.

The author, Akram Aylisli, is in trouble for his novel Stone Dreams, in which he portrayed scenes of violence carried out by Azerbaijanis against their Armenian foes during the riots that accompanied the break-up of the Soviet Union. What appears to be a coordinated campaign has been unleashed against him, with television programmes and official pronouncements railing against the writer.

He was expelled from the Union of Writers and had his presidential pension rescinded. His wife and son have also lost their jobs, while protesters have organised book-burnings of his works, held pickets outside his house, and burned effigies of him.

Events took an even more alarming turn when Hafiz Haciyev, the head of a pro-government political party, said his party would pay 10,000 manat (£8,000) for the ear of the author.

“The book was meant to be about conciliation between Azeris and Armenians,” Mr Aylisli told The Independent from Baku. “I realised when I wrote it that it could be controversial, but I didn’t for a minute think that there would be this giant campaign, on a state level.”

Azerbaijan is a bitter foe of neighbouring Armenia, and the two countries fought a war in the early 1990s over Nagorno-Karabakh, which is recognised as part of Azerbaijan but is currently run by a pro-Armenian government. There is still a heavily armed front line of muddy trenches between the two countries, and periodic militaristic rhetoric from both sides.

“If a person has no national spirit, he cannot have a sense of humanity,” said Ali Hasanov, an aide to Azerbaijan’s President, Ilham Aliyev, commenting on Mr Aylisli’s novel. “The Azerbaijani people must express public hatred towards these people.”

“The Azerbaijani authorities have an obligation to protect Akram Aylisli,” said Hugh Williamson, Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Instead, they have led the effort to intimidate him, putting him at risk with a campaign of vicious smears and hostile rhetoric.”

The campaign comes after a period of unusual civil unrest in the country, as Mr Aliyev prepares to stand for re-election later in the year. Last month, thousands of people attended an unsanctioned rally in Baku over conditions in the military, and later there were violent protests in a provincial town after a minister’s son crashed his luxury car into a local’s more modest vehicle. Although the President still retains the support of the majority of Azeris, analysts say discontent over Mr Aliyev’s authoritarian methods and the rampant corruption of the ruling elite is eroding the regime’s popularity.

“Something is definitely changing in Azerbaijan,” said Emin Milli, a blogger and activist who was released from a 15-day jail sentence for organising unsanctioned rallies last month. “For the first time, thousands of people are coming out to protest. This is the government’s old game to rally support – play the nationalist card.”

Arts and Entertainment
Ben Affleck as Nick Dunne, seated next to a picture of his missing wife Amy, played by Rosamund Pike

film
Arts and Entertainment
A bit rich: Maggie Smith in Downton Abbey

There’s revolution in the air, but one lady’s not for turning

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel, Chandler and Ross try to get Ross's sofa up the stairs in the famous 'Pivot!' scene

Friends 20th anniversary
Arts and Entertainment
Lena Dunham

booksReview: Lena Dunham, Not That Kind of Girl
PROMOTED VIDEO
Arts and Entertainment
Chloe-Jasmine Whicello impressed the judges and the audience at Wembley Arena with a sultry performance
TVReview: Who'd have known Simon was such a Roger Rabbit fan?
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special

TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
Arts and Entertainment
Friends is celebrating its 20th anniversary this year
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Actor and director Zach Braff

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Maisie Williams plays 'bad ass' Arya Stark in Game of Thrones

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Meera Syal was a member of the team that created Goodness Gracious Me

TV
Arts and Entertainment
The former Doctor Who actor is to play a vicar is search of a wife

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Pointless host Alexander Armstrong will voice Danger Mouse on CBBC

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Pharrell dismissed the controversy surrounding

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur

film
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne modelling

film
Arts and Entertainment
Emma Thompson and Bryn Terfel are bringing Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street to the London Coliseum

theatre
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

    Not That Kind of Girl:

    A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

    London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

    In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

    Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

    Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
    Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

    Model mother

    Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
    Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

    Apple still the coolest brand

    Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
    Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

    Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

    Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
    Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

    Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

    The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
    The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

    Scrambled eggs and LSD

    Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
    'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

    'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

    Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
    Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

    New leading ladies of dance fight back

    How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments