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He was expelled from the Union of Writers and had his presidential pension rescinded.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.”
Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated
tvAn expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle
artLee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 UK weather: Snow to fall in the coming week with sub-zero temperatures to last until early February
- 2 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 3 The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
- 4 Phil Neville backtracks on Tomas Rosicky 'I'd smash him' comments from Match of the Day 2
- 5 British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia
Mr Selfridge series 3: Actress Kara Tointon says 'we're starting to see his demise'
Ed Sheeran texts Noel Gallagher to offer him tickets after Wembley Stadium rant
Benedict Cumberbatch says Hollywood is better for black British actors
Sia apologises for 'Elastic Heart' music video that sees Shia LaBeouf wrestle 12-year-old Maddie Ziegler
Taylor Swift banned from Triple J Hottest 100: Fans react to epic #Tay4Hottest100 defeat
Nigel Farage: NHS might have to be replaced by private health insurance
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
French court convicts three over homophobic tweets, in case hailed as a 'significant victory' by LGBT rights campaigners
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
George Galloway condemns 'racist, Islamophobic, hypocritical rag' Charlie Hebdo at freedom of speech rally
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks