Bosnia’s capital Sarajevo has dropped an earlier decision to make famed Turkish writer and Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk an “honourary citizen” after coming under heavy pressure from the government of authoritarian Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan.
Pamuk, 65, who is a vocal critic of Erdoğan, was nominated by Sarajevo for his writing screenplay dealing with the 1992-1995 Bosnian War.
A leading newspaper in Sarajevo’s leading newspaper Oslobodenje reported on February 14 that city council members from the ruling Our Party political faction in the Bosnian capital had concluded that the decision to honour Pamuk’s would be withdrawn after coming under pressure from Ankara.
The City Council Commission had initially voted 7:0 in support of a proposal by Sarajevan publisher Buybook and NGO Amadeus to proclaim Pamuk an honourary citizen, which was to be presented to him in April in Sarajevo.
Sarajevo is governed by the Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA), whose leader Bakir Izetbegović, is known to be close to Erdoğan, having even attended the wedding of his daughter in 2016.
Authorities in Sarajevo have announced that former Croatian President Stipe Mesić will be named honourary citizen in Pamuk’s place.
Much beloved abroad as one of the world’s leading literary figures, Pamuk is a highly controversial figure in Turkey. He was tried and sentenced to prison by the Erdoğan regime of “insulting Turkishness” after publicly discussing the mass killing of Kurds by Turkish forces and the 1915 Armenian Genocide – and event that saw nearly 2 million Armenians killed or deported by the Turks in the dying days of the Ottoman Empire.
Any mention of the genocide or atrocities against its Kurdish population are illegal in Turkey and is subject to stiff prison sentences.
Pamuk, who won the Nobel prize for literature in 2006, has denounced what he called “a climate of “fear” under Erdoğan and has warned that the authoritarian leader and his Islamist AK party are steering Turkey towards a “regime of terror”.
Ali Lafcioğlu, a Turkish teacher at a Sarajevo school sponsored by Erdoğan’s bitter political opponent – exiled cleric Fethullah Gulen – was also stripped of a Sarajevo city award in 2016 on the SDA’s initiative after it came under what was widely believed to have been pressure from the Turkish government.
Under Erdoğan, NATO-member Turkey has become the world’s leading jailers of journalists and regime critics. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, at least 73 reporters remain behind bars in the country, ranking Turkey ahead of China and Egypt as the world’s number one opponent of independent media.
After a coup attempt against Erdoğan failed in July 2016, he proceeded to order a Soviet-style purge of over 300,000 civil servants and state workers and shut down 189 news outlets for their alleged connection to the plotters of the putsch or to Gulen.