Ekrem Eylisli is a well respected writer in Azerbaijan, well, he was up until few days ago. He was the center of discussion at the opening session of Azerbaijani Parliament on February 1st, not much, for some 50 minutes. He was heavily criticized for his recent book "Stone Dreams" published in mid-December in a Russian magazine "Friendship of the people". The parliament members demanded 75 year old Eylisli stripped of his title of "national artist". And its not just the parliament. A group of young men and women, gathered in front of the house where the writer lives, and chanted slogans as "Death to Eylisli", calling him a traitor, moving to Armenia, burning down his portrait, and "burring" him in a coffin with a cross placed on top of the coffin. Others went as far as to call for a DNA test to "check" his "roots".
Unlike recent protests that were violently dispersed by local police, this protest wasn't. According to reports, police just stood there watching. I doubt this was a sanctioned rally.
In an article that appeared today in NYTimes, Azerbaijani journalist, Shahla Sultanova, writes the following about the novel:
The work tells the story of two Azeri men who try to protect their Armenian neighbors from ethnic violence, an incendiary topic in Azerbaijan, a country still gripped by the war it fought two decades ago with Armenia. Since the war ended, Azerbaijan has been trying to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnically Armenian enclave within its borders, and secure the return of Azeris who were forced from their homes.
The author, says he wasn't expecting such reaction. But this is sadly the case with anyone who writes anything positive about the country's neighbor. Many have been criticized for speaking of "the enemy" in a "positive" light before and Mr. Eylisli is not the first nor is he the last one given the resentment and anger people are fed eveyday.