“Peace is the most beautiful word in the world.
Peace means brotherhood; it means life.
It means Islam,
It means humanity.
The world is enough for us all…”
The Path of Kindness from Vendettas to Peace Tables
Social Sciences teacher Yahya Kamçı from Diyarbakır works hard to end family feuds and vendettas across Turkey. Yahya Kamçı, who along with his friends facilitated the peaceful reconciliation of 174 vendettas in the region, says “Peace gets under your skin, penetrates your soul. To see people who had vendettas come around a table in the day of peace is so pleasing. I dream of a world where peace prevails everywhere.”
Yahya Kamçı is happy for serving for the good of people. He got involved in this movement of kindness through late Sait Özşanlı, who is also known as Father Peace in Diyarbakır and was nominated for Nobel Peace Prize.
41-year-old Yahya Kamçı, who has two children, has been teaching in Diyarbakır for 17 years. His family is so proud of him as a goodwill ambassador and supports him in his peaceful endeavours. Primarily in the region where lives in and across Turkey he works toward reconciling families who had grown enemies of each other due to a vendetta, or elopement, or unpaid bonds, and encourages his friends to do the same.
Known in his community as a man of many talents with a colourful personality, Yahya Kamçı pioneered the organization of many social awareness projects. He carries out many of these projects with his students, which makes him an educator beyond the classroom.
He initiated collecting used batteries, used oil and blue plastic lids projects in order to purchase wheel-chair for disabled children which served two things; providing wheel chairs for disabled children and keeping the environment clean. As a result 150.000 plastic water bottle lids, 2 tons of use oil and 250 kg of used batteries were collected. In three consecutive years he received the teacher of the year award from the NGOs in Diyarbakır. In addition to mending family feuds, he is engaged with lots of activities that will be helpful for children and the environment thus walks down all the paths that a good educator would take.
From Enmity to Solidarity
Yahya Kamçı’s story as a goodwill ambassador started with his visit to the community leader Sait Özşanlı who had reconciled many families that had major fights and vendetta in the past. His passion for creating peace grew as he came to be a part of the reconciliation process of more families plagued with this issue in the past.
Convinced that it was fate that the paths of these two peace-loving men crossed each other he got involved without having second thoughts about the risks and dangers it might cause to him.
Mr, Sait, who quickly realized Yahya Kamçı’s potential as a peace broker, proposed the role to him on his first visit. “When he asked me what do I do for a living I said I was teaching. You have a respectable character and profession he replied and then suggested that we work together to end family feuds. It was something for the good of people and it was a fitting role for my character. One day we rode up to a village off Lice, a town in Diyarbakır. The feud between two local families there was resolved and it ended with families walking past under the Quran” recounts Yahya Kamçı.
The sight of two estranged families hugging each other after passing under the Quran held high moved Yahya Kamçı. Saying to himself “That means peace is brotherhood” he grasped what it means to be with uncle Sait and how he is going to encourage both himself and future generations during his career as an educator to this end.
Yahya Kamçı tells following major feuds the families unable to bear being in the same town move away to different places. “We cannot just say it’s none of my business in this case. Uncle Sait used to say that whoever said it’s none of my business had indeed lost humanity. For the sake our consciousness we should try to make sure there is peace” he explains his mind-set in this cause he has wholeheartedly adopted.
He Listens to Them One By One …
Until Özşanlı’ death in 2009 Yahya Kamçı attended every peace making session with him. Following his elder’s death, he established ‘Haji Sait Özşanlı Peace Committee’ with his friends, teachers, imams and Özşanlı’s children. Although the number of committee members fluctuates they never gave up following up on his legacy.
Nowadays Yahya Kamçı and committee members never turn down anyone reaching out to them for help from anywhere across the country and travel to such places like Muş, Urfa, Istanbul, Erzurum in order to speak to the members of feuding families. They visit the elders of each family and listen to their problems. They make sure not to leave any matter un-discussed that would lead to disagreement in the future. They decide on a date and the community leaders are also invited. On the day the families persuaded to make peace along with other guests gather. The gathering starts with Quran recitation. The families walk past under the Quran held high by persons unrelated and unbiased to the families. After walking past under Quran families give a hug to each other and sit around one table to break bread together.
Yahya Kamçı explains the secret behind successfully brokering peace in long-held vendettas, major fights and family feuds: “The biggest factor is Quran. People’s tightening hearts open up. They make peace out of their respect for Quran. We, as a committee, have concluded all peace processes by making both parties walk past under the Quran. And later on we never had any problems, because the Quran governs them from then onwards. Out of their reverence and fear of the Quran they do not break up again.”
Yet Another Story of Peace Brokered by Yahya Kamçı
During a brawl between cousins in Bismil town of Diyarbakır one of them died. “Nine years later we have stepped in and reconciled the families. I brought my junior and senior high school students to the venue of the peace gathering. My students, my teacher, his teacher and I, so we were there as four generations working to make peace. My students often join the peace processes in the region. They help me out. I believe the best way to teach them about peace is to let them experience it by themselves” he says.
Yahya Kamçı’s family also had a similar issue. But with God’s help he was able to bring an end to this ancient family feud. In 1973 Yahya’s family got into a fight with their cousins. During the fight four people were killed. Due to this tragic event the cousins left their village and while some moved to the city others went as far as Istanbul and Germany. The families never talked to each other nor did they have any contact for 35 years. Kamçı, who found lack of contact even helpful as it prevented further loss of lives, relayed the issue to uncle Sait in 2008. They further discussed it with educated and compassionate locals from the same village. With their support Kamçı family found peace and reconciliation.
Yahya Kamçı points out that major or minor interpersonal problems in the region run the potential to turn into a vendetta and vows to keep working in an effort to resolve them. “Our region is so unique that when a vendetta that started because of a single lamb peacefully ends it is celebrated with forty lambs. An action taken in rage and fury can result in calamity that will be cause much regret. So we say that yes people can have a brawl for a lamb but peace is worth forty sheep to be grilled and eaten in celebration. Indeed we need and long for peace so much” he explains. “My biggest wish is a world where peace prevails and people do not get killed,” he adds.
Yahya Kamçı, who, since 2003, has been working toward ending family feuds and vendettas, keeps filing the records of all of his activities. He spends all the free time and energy he got once he is done with teaching, which is his primary occupation, on mediating between families with disputes. He has his colleagues back in this. They work together at school until noon and in downtown in the afternoon toiling to make their region more peaceful.
Kamçı says that he is willing to spend the rest of his life for this cause as he is greatly motivated by the peace that is created as a result of families’ reconciliation. “It is incredible. It gets under your skin as if it is in my soul right now. I dream of a world, where peace prevails in every corner. Kindness is the key to every heart. I believe one day only kindness will prevail in his world.”