(To read Part One first, click here.)
A disastrous encounter
Before going to work in the morning, Samir takes a long busride to go to the shelter. Until about two weeks ago, he was going by car, passing through a number of checkpoints. At a checkpoint, the guards stopped him, and asked where he was going and what he was doing. His explanation about feeding animals sounded improbable to the impatient guards, who beat him, causing significant head injuries, and threatened to arrest him. “Miraculously,” he writes, he was let go.
Aside from the shock and trauma of being beaten, the clearly visible injuries to his face and head now make him stand out, so that being inconspicuous is no longer an option. Next time he drove to the cat shelter, he was stopped at every checkpoint.
This was rapidly becoming a disaster, since if he were arrested, aside from the terrifying risk of disappearing for good in jail, it would mean there would be no one to care for the animals. So, going by minibus, then walking through the area filled with snipers became the only way to get there. The other day missiles destroyed a building half a mile from the shelter, and the sounds of gunfire and fighter jets or helicopters are a recurring presence.
The current situation
If there is a lull in the fighting, Samir will be able to get a vehicle to the area, to move the cats to a safer place. He has located an appropriate place for them – safer and nearer to his home.
His vet will update vaccinations and travel papers for the animals, and, God-willing, the animals can make their way to safety out of Syria.
Nothing is certain, there is constant danger, and the course of the war cannot be forseen. For the cats and the wild animals to escape from Syria requires a lull in the fighting in the neighborhood where the shelter is.
Angels standing by to help
Three excellent organizations are standing by to help in every way possible: the Al Ma’wa Center for Nature and Wildlife in Jordan, Animals Lebanon in Beirut, and the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF) in Cairo.
The Al Ma’wa Centre for Nature and Wildlife is the beautiful wildlife sanctuary established by The Princess Alia Foundation to help in just such emergencies, not only in Jordan but also to serve as the regional hub for confiscated\rescued wild animals. They have, with great kindness, offered to accept the animals.
Animals Lebanon, in Beirut, has done amazing work, rescuing domestic animals and wildlife from extreme situations, including war time conditions. Though quite overwhelmed already because of the current refugee crisis, they are willing to take in Samir’s cats and wild animals temporarily, if the animals can reach them, and then will handle travel arrangements to ship them on to permanent homes or placement.
Ahmed El Sherbiny, with the wisdom and experience of having brought into being MENAW (the Middle East Network for Animal Welfare) and having organized the major international conferences that MENAW has put on in Cairo, has coordinated all this assistance being offered to the Syrian animals.
Ahmed El Sherbiny is also the Director of ESAF, the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends. Among their many worthwhile programs, they have faithfully carried out, over many months, feeding and vet care for the Pyramids horses and camels, left stranded during the time of civil unrest. ESAF has also offered, if needed, to take in permanently, the Syrian animals.
How you can help
If you’d like to help, right now it is your thoughts and prayers that are needed most for these innocent animals, both the cats and the wild animals, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves in a terrible war zone – and for the brave man, Samir, who risks his life every day to care for them. Please extend your prayers for a happy, safe, and peaceful outcome.
There is no guarantee that the animals will be able to leave Syria, and no guarantee that this can happen quickly.
If, God willing, the animals are able to escape from Syria, then the help that will be invaluable will be forever homes for the cats and donations for all the animals.
Here are the websites or Facebook pages of the three groups that are so generously extending their help. Of course, there’s no need to wait if you’d like to help with the wonderful work that they do ongoingly for animals.
To visit the Facebook page of the Egyptian Society of Animal Friends (ESAF), click here.
To visit the website of the Princess Alia Foundation, which runs the Al Ma’wa Centre for Nature and Wildlife, click here.
To visit the website of Animals Lebanon, click here.
Top photo: Courtesy of Samir / Ariel
Second photo: Courtesy of Animals Lebanon. / Gizelle is one of Animal Lebanon’s adoptable cats You can read her story on Animal Lebanon’s website. We hope soon to be able to post more photos of the Syrian animals, as well as the Al Ma’wa Centre for Nature and Wildlife in Jordan and the ESAF shelter in Cairo.