Diyarbakır’s Bird Lovers
Yusuf Onuk: Diyarbakır, Türkiye, 2022 (Unsplash)
“What you can still see in cities in Turkey — more evident as you go east and south, but you can even find it in Istanbul — are the signs of a hobby and an occupation that was once much more widespread throughout the world, in particular the Muslim world, from the Mediterranean all the way to the Far East — pigeon rearing for flying or racing. It is indeed very interesting to see many dovecotes in houses and courtyards and pigeons flying above houses in cities in southeast Turkey, and the importance that people put into them,” said Turkey-based ornithologist Jose Tavares.
The Yaman brothers have transformed their city’s hobby into a business and have amassed quite a flock. “We provide everything here,” Mahmut says. The brothers and their staff clean the rooms and cages, feed the birds (when they aren’t being fed by their loyal owners, some of whom come every day) and take them to the veterinarian when they fall ill. The four-story hotel has a terrace and 50 individual sections that house more than 1,000 birds.
But it’s a labor of love. Rising maintenance costs brought on by soaring inflation in Turkey have dealt a harsh blow to small-business owners. Mehmet said that they are having trouble turning a profit despite the fact that demand is high and they have plenty of customers.
Fatih Avenue is located in the heart of the district of Bağlar, the most densely populated in Diyarbakır. Many residential streets in the area are so narrow that cars cannot pass through. Scooters and small, three-wheeled vehicles with truck beds for transporting market goods whiz by instead as groups of children play soccer in the tight alleyways and vendors grill skewers of kebab from small carts on the sidewalk.