ISTANBUL - Azerbaijani Aliekper Aliyev, the author of a controversial gay-themed love story between two schoolboys, one Armenian and the other Azerbaijani, asks why romanticizing homosexuality is better than romanticizing war.
A gay-themed novel about the love between two boys, one from Armenia and the other from Azerbaijan, has sparked controversy in both countries and made its author a target of threats.
"Some people say I wrote a book like this because I wanted to make my name heard in the world [but] I have no intention of leaving my country. I will continue my struggle," Azerbaijani author Aliekper Aliyev told the Hürriyet Daily News & Economic Review. "Such a topic does not surprise anyone in developed countries, but Azerbaijan and Armenia are countries home to latent homosexuals. They are traditional, closed and conservative."
Aliyev’s controversial novel, "Artus and Zaur," after the names of its two main characters, is set to be translated into English, Georgian and French.
Between men, violence more acceptable than love
Though Aliyev’s story is about love, he has much to say about war and politics as well. Discussing the problems between Armenia and Azerbaijan, he said: "In terms of democracy and thought, both countries have similarities with banana republics in Africa. They are anti-democratic countries where human rights are violated in every fields of life, and there is no safety for life, property or honor."
Despite the threats he’s received, Aliyev said he never felt fear, adding, "The southern Caucasus republics are the leader in unsolved murders. Our only rivals are Africa and dictatorial regimes in South America."
The long-standing conflict over the Nagorno-Karabakh region serves the governments of both Armenia and Azerbaijan, Aliyev believes. "Both countries scare their citizens by inciting the war again," he said. "Both suffer from corruption and bribery, [their] societies are enslaved. Both are feudal governments. I defend homosexual romanticism over war romanticism. It is acceptable when two men kill each other, but is it a sin when they sleep together?"
Oil and gas, serum for a sick geography
Aliyev is pessimistic about the future of the Caucasus region, saying, "There is no light in the end of the tunnel." He calls the area a "sick geography," adding: "Crude oil and gas are the serum for this patient. When the serum comes to an end, it will show its true colors. The poverty behind the luxurious cars and buildings will be seen then. I want my own county’s natural resources to be exhausted at once. Otherwise, we will continue to become like the Arabs and more authoritarian. Our only escape is the closure of crude oil and gas pipelines for good."
War is the backdrop for Aliyev’s novel, which tells the story of two schoolboys. The author says he chose main characters of that age "because such sexual drives appear at puberty." He said the novel had become a hot issue in Armenia more than in Azerbaijani, especially in the Armenian parliament. Referring to an article published in an Armenian paper, Aliyev said: "The writer said there was no homosexuality in Armenia and that such perversions could be seen only in Azerbaijan. I think such statements make no sense in the 21st century."
About the novel
Schoolboys Artush, an Armenian, and Zaur,
an Azerbaijani, fall in love while they are both living in Baku. When war breaks out
between their countries, Artush leaves Zaur and migrates to Armenia with his family. Zaur spends his time walking the streets and visiting the places that remind him of Artush. After many years, the pair reunites in Tbilisi and their love begins anew.