Akre's old fort undergoes renovation

author_image Kurmanj Nhili
Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

The 'qishla', or old fort, in Akre town is currently being renovated and is already beginning to stand out more beautifully than before.

The fort has architectural details such as arched doorways and windows.

Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

The fort consists of two floors with over 30 rooms. It has some walls as wide as 40 centimeters, making it resilient for at least 165 years.

The historic Ottoman fort was used and reused by successive British and Iraqi governments. It's one of a number of such forts built by the Ottomans, similar to other forts built in Sulaimani, Erbil, and Zakho.

Ottoman documents dating back to 1858 refer to the fort. However, the director of Duhok antiquities and heritage Dr. Bekas Jamaladdin Brifkani, believes it could be much older than that.

In 1878, European travelers visited Akre and mentioned the old fort in their writings.

Qishla comes from the Ottoman-era word Qashlagh, which used to refer to a military base or a place for sheltering troops, especially in winter.

Akre's old fort has been a place of both joy and wretchedness for the town's people, depending on the time.

Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

During the brutal rule of Saddam Hussein's regime, a part of the fort was used as a base and jail and was also used for government offices up until 2003, when the fort was evacuated.

People like Salah Akray remember his friends being detained in the fort during Saddam's time for their role in the Kurdish political movement.

In 2005, the office of Akre's antiquities was opened inside the fort.

According to Dr. Brifkani, the fort was renovated in 1933.

In 2013, renewed renovation efforts started but soon stopped due to the ISIS war and the ensuing financial crisis.

In mid-2021, the Ministry of Municipalities and Tourism of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) allocated 166,128,700 Iraqi dinars (approximately $133,600) for the renovation of the fort as part of the 900,000,000 million dinars (approximately $615,000) budget allocated by Prime Minister Masrour Barzani for renovating and preserving old and important sites in the region.

Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)
Akre’s old fort undergoing renovation, May 25, 2022 (Photo: Kurmanj Nhili)

According to Hiwa Shamal, director of Akre antiquities, this amount will help protect the fort from collapse and fully finish the renovation of one side. Still, a bigger budget is still needed to renovate the site entirely.

Shamal stated that there are plans to open two museums inside the fort that will showcase many ancient and cultural artifacts. However, he noted that completely renovating such an old historical site will take a long time.

In 2010 a UNESCO team examined several historical buildings in Akre, including the fort. Shamal said they haven't heard anything back from UNESCO about the site 12 years later.