A Swiss tradition in a Turkish Village, “True” Magazine, no. 17, Ankara, August 2006


Yaşar Yakış
Chairman of the EU Commission in the Turkish Parliament
Former Minister of Foreign Affairs

 I attended recently a unique ceremony in a picturesque village in the Western Black Sea region, namely in the village of Çayköy in Düzce.

The guest of honour was Deputy Prime Minister Abdüllatif Şener and he was kind enough to inform me of the event as it was in my constituency. When we arrived in the village, knowing well the Caucasian traditions, Mr. Şener went to every single group that were scattered under the trees in the garden of the community centre of the village, rather than waiting for them to come and greet the Deputy Prime Minister.

 The event was labelled the “Convention for the Prohibition of Firearms during the Wedding Parties”.

The lady who was chairing the Bureau of the Convention told the gathering that this initiative was started 3 years ego when a young boy was accidentally killed by a stray bullet. It started in the villages inhabited mainly by an Abkhaz community. They committed themselves not to use firearms to express their joy during the wedding ceremonies.

63 out of 80 villages inhabited by Abkhaz communities in the Western Black Sea region joined the initiative.

The Chairperson of the convention further told us something that I found extremely revealing: She said that according to the Abkhazian traditions such decisions are made in the public squares (meydan). She pronounced an Abkhazian name for it, but I could not record it.   In other words Abkhazians make their decision pertaining to public matters in the public square of the village, very much like they do in the Swiss cantons.

If a person violates this decision of the community, no punishment is imposed upon him. He is simply regarded as a person who committed a shameful act. This is perhaps a unique example in Turkey where social exclusion is more efficient than the punishments imposed by laws.

Two years ego they decided to attend neither the funerals nor wedding or circumcision ceremonies in the villages where this decision was not respected. One year later, having led to the conclusion that it was not appropriate to refuse to attend the funerals, they amended the decision as to attend the funerals but to continue not to attend the wedding and circumcision ceremonies.

Another banned practice was on taking alcohol drinks during the wedding ceremonies, as it affected negatively the polite ambiance of the wedding ceremonies. To remedy the complaints of the youth who say that without firearm and alcohol drinks the wedding ceremonies would look dull, it was decided to increase the number of courses for folk dances and to teach more people to dance them properly.

Refined Abkhaz traditions were also demonstrated when the members of the bureau stood up while the Deputy Prime Minister was addressing the gathering in front of the microphone and stayed standing for a long while until Mr. Şener noticed that they were standing. They refused to sit until Mr. Şener told them if they do not sit he would stop addressing the gathering.

I genuinely cherish the hope that more and more communities will join this initiative or will start their independent initiatives and that Turkey will move towards a society where the firearms will be confined to the use of the security forces alone.

I was so moved by this initiative that I decided to support it with something that goes beyond simple words and announced during the meeting, in front of the TV cameras, that I will return my licensed pistol to the security authorities.

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