BAKU — A pro-government party in Azerbaijan has offered a reward to anyone who cuts off the ear of prominent novelist Akram Aylisli, who is under attack from critics of his new book for its sympathetic depiction of 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 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.
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 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.”

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