The sign, which bore Atatürk’s saying “How happy is the one who says ‘I am a Turk’”– a long-standing guiding principle of the Kemalist education system of the Turkish Republic — and a watermelon figure, the symbol of the city, had been set on Diyarbakır’s İnanoğlu Street after the Sept. 12, 1980 coup d’état in Turkey. The coup was headed by the chief of General Staff at the time and aimed to end the conflicts of the right and left wings, which could not be controlled by the government.
The signboard, which was put up after the coup — a period in which peace was seemingly restored, but violence continued behind closed doors and oppression dominated the lives of many people – was removed on Thursday, marking a historic moment.
Speaking to a reporter, Justice and Development Party (AK Party) Diyarbakır deputy Mine Lök Beyaz said: “I tried many times to have the sign in question removed. The removal of such a signboard, which has a rusty watermelon image and ‘How happy is the one who says “I am a Turk”’ written on it, means a lot to the people of Diyarbakır.”
Diyarbakır Bar Association President Tahir Elçi recalled that one of the lawyers working for the bar association, Mahsuni Karaman, submitted a request to the governor’s office a month ago to get the signboard removed. He stated that the request was welcomed by officials. Elçi added: “Such writings in this region have been long comprehended as wrong. I believe the removal of the signboard will be a major contribution to the settlement process.”
The government recently took another step towards helping the settlement process when the president announced, as part of a democratization package, the elimination of the requirement to recite the student oath en masse at primary schools. The oath begins with the words, “I am a Turk.”