Saturday, February 09, 2013

The Aylisli Affair

Daisy Sindelar has written an interesting overview of the controversy in Azerbaijan surrounding novelist Akram Aylisli's Stone Dreams, which portrays Azeri massacres of Armenians during the Karabakh War.  The novel has predictably outraged Azerbaijan's substantial nationalist public opinion, with even President Ilham Aliyev issuing a decree ending his state pension and stripping him of various honorary decrees.  Sindelar, however, sees the possibility that the official response could have another motive:
The severity of the censure may be tied to Aylisli's open criticism of the Baku's ruling elite. In addition to its depictions of the Azerbaijani-Armenian conflict, "Stone Dreams" paints a thinly veiled portrait of Aliyev's father and predecessor as president, Heydar, as a corrupt official who buys the loyalty of Baku's intelligentsia with free apartments. And a more recent manuscript, "Big Traffic Jam," which has only appeared in samizdat form, is rumored to subject both Aliyevs to a scathing satirical critique.
Nonetheless, Aylisli apparently has defenders, at least on free speech grounds, and in fact yesterday the country's state television aired a segment in which Aylisli debated a member of the ruling party on the issue of policy toward Armenia.  This airing of the issue of divisive rhetoric can only be good for the country if it encourages people to actually consider how Azerbaijan could possibly re-integrate Nagorno-Karabakh and its substantial Armenian population back into the country, which is still the goal from which no public figures dare back down.

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