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
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He was expelled from the Union of Writers and had his presidential pension rescinded.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 & Ents blogs
There is a good many moments in the second episode of this psychological thriller that deserve refle...
The opening titles squeal ‘Never Can Say Goodbye…’. Oh Lord how I wish I could heave this series off...
Even though there was a complete absence of our favourite odd couple Brienne and Jaime, we got anoth...
This is the end... Keyboard player of The Doors Ray Manzarek dies of cancer aged 74
'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
Coronation Street triumphs over EastEnders at British Soap Awards 2013
School-gate mums: Is 2013's Fifty Shades a novel by Gill Hornby called The Hive?
Arrested Development returns but can the new episodes on Netflix capture the show's deadpan glory days?
- 1 'He was lucky he didn't die' - George Michael fell out of speeding car onto M1 motorway, according to eye witness
- 2 Austerity has hardened the nation's heart
- 3 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 4 X marks the spot: The find that could rewrite Australian history
- 5 'It was just like the movie Twister': Man survives Oklahoma tornado by taking refuge in horse stall
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Find out what The Independent's resident travel expert has to say about one of the most beautiful small cities in the world
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.