ZAGREB, February 17, 2018 – World-renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk will be left without the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo after a municipal commission reviewed its decision and decided to confer the award on former Croatian President Stjepan Mesić.
The City Council Commission on Elections and Appointments initially voted 7:0 to support the proposal by the Sarajevo book publisher Buybook and the non-governmental organisation Amadeus to proclaim Pamuk an honorary citizen of Sarajevo. The award was to be presented to him in April in Sarajevo.
The decision says that the title of an honorary citizen may also be awarded to a foreign national for their outstanding contribution to the development and recognition of the city and the promotion of international and interpersonal relations on the principles of solidarity, democracy, humanity and tolerance.
Pamuk was nominated for his repeated reminiscences of the significance of Sarajevo as a meeting point of civilisations and cultures and for the fact that he agreed to work on a film scenario about a wartime concert by the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra in the demolished City Hall.
However, seven days after the unanimous decision, a new meeting of the same commission was convened on the initiative of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) to review the initial decision. This time around, four members voted against the title being awarded to Pamuk, saying that “he has not done enough for Sarajevo.”
“They decided to award the title to Stjepan Mesić instead of Pamuk,” Buybook owner Damir Uzunović told Hina. He said he suspected the reason for this was the desire of the predominantly Muslim ruling party to curry favour with Turkey and the regime of President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
“They (the SDA) are defending the Turks against Pamuk,” Uzunović said, adding that such behaviour was utterly absurd because Pamuk was undeniably a great figure regardless of his criticism of Erdogan and his rule.
Buybook has been in negotiations with Pamuk since 2014 about his visit to Sarajevo, and Uzunović now fears that nothing will come of it after this insult from the Sarajevo City Council.
Opposition parties in the City Council have a similar opinion as Uzunović’s. Our Party councillor Samir Fazlić also said that the SDA was behind this decision because of Pamuk’s criticism of Erdogan’s policy of jailing opposition intellectuals, writers and journalists and his writings about Turkey’s atrocities against the Armenians.
“The SDA fears that the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo will anger Erdogan, and we should recall that the (Muslim) member of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, Bakir Izetbegović, is ready to bequeath Bosnia to Erdogan,” Fazlić said.
Fazlić noted that this was not the first such case. In 2016, Ali Lafcioglu, a Turkish teacher at a Sarajevo school sponsored by Erdogan’s political opponent Fethullah Gulen, was stripped of a Sarajevo city award on the SDA’s initiative.