ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — It has been 24 years in November since Kurdish parties agreed to end a three-plus year civil war, and the return of storks to the Iraqi Kurdistan Region's capital of Erbil is regarded as a blessing.
“The stork is a very, very honorable bird. During my childhood in 1960s, I used to come to Erbil. Two storks used to build their nests there every year. They used to return at the start of spring. They used to leave at the start of winter,” said Hamid Abdulla while sitting on a bench in front of Erbil’s citadel, in November.
Storks are a part of the city’s history and older people regard them as blessings.
The history of storks at the main bazaar goes back to the period of building Khanaqa Mosque in the 1940s.
But in 1994, one of the storks was killed during Kurdistan’s civil war. The other one left and she has never returned.
“They left here 20 years ago. I have traveled too. Now, I am back and hopefully the storks too,” said Kamaran Abdulrahman.
The scenes are reminiscent of their youth.
The reason for their return is Sirwan Jumaa, who has been trying for three years to get the storks to return to Shar Park
“I brought them when they were chicks, I clipped their wings so they couldn’t fly and would become familiarized with the location,” he said.
Storks in Kurdistan migrate south in musters during the winter.
“Thank God they are now familiar with this place. The female’s wings have improved, and she has been flying for the last two years,” said Jumaa.
They are carnivores.
“I feed them meat in the morning; I feed them fish in the evening. I feed them different foods to provide better vitamins,” explained Jumaa.
In addition to storks being symbolic for Kurds in Erbil, they are too for tourists who frequent Erbil’s historic city center to take photos by water fountains, tour the citadel, and shop at the bazaar.
“Concerning the stork: It symbolizes the strong safety and security in Erbil. The scenes are very beautiful, the birds are beautiful too,” said Mustafa Adnan, a tourist.
Kurds, who rarely bring up the topic of the civil war that lasted from May 1994 to November 1997, hope the return of the storks 24 years after their darkest and bloodiest times can be another step towards a brighter future for Kurdistan.