ZAGREB, February 27, 2018 – Former Croatian president Stjepan Mesić has refused the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo after the city government withdrew its earlier decision to give the award to world-renowned Turkish novelist Orhan Pamuk, local media in Bosnia and Herzegovina reported on Tuesday, which was later confirmed by Mesić.
The Klix web portal released the news ahead of a meeting of the City Council convened for Wednesday which was to have formally adopted the decision to confer the award on Mesić. “When I heard how the decision was made and that the title was withdrawn from Orhan Pamuk to be conferred on me, I thought that it was wrong and I refused the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo,” Mesić told the N1 commercial television. Mesić added that this was obviously a political problem and that it would be inappropriate for him to take part in it.
The Sarajevo 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 name Pamuk an honorary citizen of Sarajevo. The award was to be presented to him in April in Sarajevo.
However, a few days later a new meeting of the same commission was convened on the initiative of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) to review the initial decision. That 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, whom Pamuk regularly criticizes.
Opposition parties in the City Council have a similar opinion as Uzunović.
The SDA fears that the title of honorary citizen of Sarajevo will anger Erdogan. “They (SDA) are defending the Turks against Pamuk,” Uzunović told Hina ironically.
Bosnian media have reported that Mesić’s refusal of this obviously compromised title is a sort of slap in the face for Sarajevo’s officials.