Turkey on Saturday “strongly” condemned the awarding of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke, as the Austrian writer is a denier of the 1992-1995 Bosnian genocide.
“We strongly disapprove of the awarding of the 2019 Nobel Prize in Literature to Peter Handke, who is a denier of the Bosnian genocide and a staunch supporter of (Slobodan) Milosevic, who was the perpetrator of the Bosnian genocide and the murderer of our Bosnian brothers,” the National Defense Ministry said on Twitter.
Presidential Spokesperson Ibrahim Kalın also criticized the Swedish Academy’s “shameless” choice of Handke.
“On Monday, the Nobel Prize for Literature will be given to Peter Handke, who supports Milosevic and denies the Bosnian genocide,” Kalın said on Twitter. The spokesperson said “the shameless decision” to be reversed: “How can you award someone without moral consciousness and sense of shame?! To encourage new genocides?!”
Following the announcement of Handke as a Nobel laureate, relatives of Bosnian War victims also condemned the decision. In 1997, Handke was accused of minimizing Serbian war crimes in his book “A Journey to the Rivers: Justice for Serbia.” Handke is known as a great admirer of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milosevic, who died in 2006 at the international tribunal in The Hague on trial for war crimes and genocide. In one article, during the Kosovo War, Handke even exclaimed: “Stand up if you support the Serbs.”
He claimed that the Muslim Bosniaks in Sarajevo killed members of their own community in a false flag attack which would put the blame on the Serbs, adding that he never believed the Serbs committed genocide in Srebrenica. Furthermore, Handke visited former Serbian leader Milosevic in prison and made attempts to testify in his favor. “I am here for Yugoslavia, for Serbia, for Slobodan Milosevic,” Handke said, attending Milosevic’s funeral in 2006.
As part of the prize, Handke will also receive 9 million Swedish kronor ($952,000), as well as a medal and diploma.
The Swedish Academy has been faced with a storm of criticism since 2017. Just before the news conference on Friday, one committee member said he would boycott the award ceremony in protest.
“I will not participate in Nobel Week this year … Celebrating Peter Handke’s Nobel Prize would be pure hypocrisy on my part,” Peter Englund, a historian and writer, told the daily Dagens Nyheter. Englund headed the Swedish Academy between 2009 and 2015 and reported on the 1990s conflicts in the Balkans for Swedish newspapers.
Two other committee members announced their resignation on Monday. Kristoffer Leandoer said he did not have “the patience” for the internal reforms the academy undertook after a sex scandal that shuck its image in 2017. Gun-Britt Sundstrom, meanwhile, directly cited Handke’s being awarded this year’s Nobel as a reason for her own departure.
“The choice of 2019 laureate was not just a choice about a body of work, it has also been interpreted … as a defense of the stance that literature is ‘above ‘politics,'” Sundstrom wrote in a comment to daily Dagens Nyheter this week.