Amid growing controversy and threats of violence, a gay novel has been removed from the shelves of Azeri bookstores, report Reuters.

Alekper Aliyev's Artush And Zaur is the story of a doomed love affair between two men during the collapse of the Soviet Union. The novel pairs men from two long-standing adversary groups: Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis.

“My book is a fight against stereotypes,” Aliyev told the news agency. “In Azerbaijan there are two main stereotypes, the gay man and the Armenian. The worst thing you can be is gay or Armenian, or to have any relation to Armenia.”

“I want to deprive them of this instrument, and to explain to people they should not be afraid,” he added.

Aliyev, 31, said his sixth novel was removed from the shelves of its only distributor, Baku's popular Ali and Nino bookstore chain, at the order of police. And a March 11 book signing by the Azeri-born novelist was abruptly canceled.

“The police told them – if you don't do it, we'll do it ourselves,” Aliyev said. “And they withdrew all the books from sale.”

Since its January release about 150 copies of Artush And Zaur have been sold.