Former President Refuses Sarajevo Award Meant for Turkish Writer

Croatia’s former president turned down a Sarajevo award on the account that the award was previously denied to a Turkish writer.

Stjepan Mesić said he rejected the honorary citizen of Sarajevo title that was originally meant for Orhan Pamuk, adding that the controversy was too much.

“Orhan Pamuk is an internationally acclaimed writer, a Nobel Prize winner; I come from another walk of life. I am a politician; he is a writer. I feel uncomfortable being in a competition with a Nobel Prize winner. I couldn’t accept it, and I informed the mayor of Sarajevo about that,” Mesić told Al Jazeera Balkans.

The controversy starter earlier this month, when the Sarajevo city council’s commission for awards abruptly decided to reverse its earlier decision and not honor Pamuk on April 6, the WW2 liberation day.

Pamuk had been nominated for the honor by local publisher and bookshop Buybook, as he was planning to visit the city this spring while working on a screenplay about Bosnia during the war. According to Buybook director Damir Uzunović, while the council commission initially voted seven to zero to make the Turkish author an honorary citizen, a second vote saw Pamuk’s candidacy rejected by four votes to three.

“The council commission explanation was that Orhan Pamuk did nothing or almost nothing for the city of Sarajevo. Some members from the ruling party estimated that awarding Mr Pamuk might cause the anger of Turkey’s current government. They used this opportunity to send a message to Pamuk … that he is not welcome in Sarajevo,” Uzunović said.

Sarajevo mayor Abdulah Skaka, member of the ruling Bosniak party, the SDA, defended the decision: “The candidates do not exclude one another; the decision does not limit the number of the ‘honorary citizen’ awards. The award is not being taken from anybody by honoring Stjepan Mesić.”

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