President Abdullah Gül's long-expected Diyarbakır visit finally began on Thursday. Many things were discussed on the plane, as is the reality that discussions on the plane between journalists and statesmen really make the essence of such visits.
I will write about the details later. Let me tell you this for now: Responding to a question whether he would speak Kurdish during his Diyarbakır visit, Gül said: “I cannot speak Kurdish. I would speak it if I could but I do not want it to be in an unnatural manner.”
Gül had a busy agenda during his two-day visit. It is not difficult to grasp the importance of the visit just judging by the number of journalists following his visit. The cameras were pointed, ready to capture something important on the Kurdish issue from Turkey's president. After all, it was the president who once uttered the words, “Good things will happen about the Kurdish issue soon.”
The president must be quite aware of this sense of expectation. He said during his speech at the Diyarbakır Organized Industrial Zone: “I had said good things would happen. In fact, good things are already happening. We are able to talk about issues that we were afraid to mention few years ago. The important thing is not to block these good developments.”
His remarks on the plane were also along the same lines. Although he did not think that this visit was too different from others, he was aware of the expectations that his visit had created. As Diyarbakır Mayor Osman Baydemir, who accompanied Gül during the entire visit, said, “the president has the role of referee on the Kurdish issue.”
I can also see this role as a person who knows the region to some extent. President Gül is highly regarded in the region. Throughout his visit we could see how his supra-political position is appreciated by the people of Diyarbakır, who have been the victims in the Kurdish issue. There were so many people, including the young and the old, who waved at him and bowed to greet him soon after his plane landed the airport. Even this deep appreciation and respect shows that something has changed in Turkey.
A greeting banner drew our attention at the airport which stated, “President of our nation, welcome to Diyarbakır.” Gül, as the president, behaves and speaks as a person from the public during all aspects of the visit. He is just like one of them.
A complaint that he expressed after his visit to the marble factory owned by Raif Türk, can also be explained by how he too feels like he is one of them. During his speech, when emphasized Diyarbakır's cultural and historical heritage, Gül noted that the current situation is not the image that Diyarbakır deserves.
He commented that he meant that Diyarbakır, which is a leading city not only in Turkey but also in the Middle East, does not deserve today's clashes. It was easy to feel that he was concerned, as much as any Diyarbakır resident, that a highly ideological atmosphere should be avoided in order to give back the city the value it deserves.
It is indisputable that a statesman who feels this way will contribute to the solution, irrespective of whether the National Security Council (MGK) issues harsh statements on the Kurdish issue.