BAKU -- A pro-government party in Azerbaijan has offered a reward to anyone who cuts off the ear of a controversial novelist under attack from critics of a book portraying sensitive issues in relations between Azerbaijanis and Armenians.
Muasir Musafat (Modern Equality) leader Hafiz Haciyev told journalists on February 10 that his party will pay 10,000 manats ($12,700) for the ear of Akram Aylisli.
Aylisli was officially stripped of his "People's Writer" title and his presidentially-awarded pension last week.
He was also expelled from the Union of Azerbaijani Writers. The actions were taken because of Aylisli's novel "Stone Dreams," published in a popular Russian magazine last year.
It focuses on clashes between Azerbaijanis and Armenians in Baku and Nagorno-Karabakh, the mostly Armenian-populated region that broke away from Azerbaijan in the early 1990s.
The furor over the novel sparked a week of protests
and book burnings
, as well as calls for Aylisli to give up his citizenship.
Aylisli told journalists on February 11 that he might leave the country because of the threat.
The Interior Ministry says Haciyev's statement will be investigated.
The Baku-based Institute for Reporters’ Freedom and Safety (IRFS) issued a statement in which it "strongly condemns" Hajiyev's "[call] for physical violence against Arkam Aylisli, one of Azerbaijan's well known authors." The IRFS described the recent events as a "smear campaign...amid a pre-election crackdown."
"While IRFS welcomes the Ministry of Interior’s...statement that such calls for violence are unacceptable and that they will be properly investigated, we are dismayed that the blatant attack against Aylisli has not been condemned by the Interior Ministry, Ministry of National Security and Prosecutor General’s Office," the group said. "IRFS urges...government agencies to urgently react and guarantee the safety of Akram Aylisli and his family as long as the pressure exists."