The Zoo of Horrors in Riyadh is proof that this statement is not always true. Read my original post on the atrocities and torture of animals that goes on at "Hadiqa Abu Jarrah" in Fantasy Land Riyadh here.
A month has passed since I wrote that post and it has been circulating on the internet and also the media, here's a quick update:
France 24 Observers ran a story about the zoo quoting my article, they contacted me for a quick interview and a week later I appeared on their TV show. ParisMatch featured a story titled "Zoo Shame" calling the zoo a "sinister deathtrap". The article has been forwarded on Facebook over 3000 times.
Only one local Saudi media, Sabq.org has mentioned the zoo. They quoted the France 24 article, but failed to provide a link to the petition. How typical. My husband tried to post the link to the petition on the comments section many times, but they would not allow it to be published (among 59 published comments).
Currently 3600 people have signed the petition, my YouTube videos of the zoo have over 60,000 views and lots of people around the world have been tweeting and forwarding the petition. Bloggers Americanbedu, Miss Hijabi and Arabyja Saudyjska have also written about my article on the zoo.
Despite all this, not enough has happened to change anything at the zoo and the animals continue to dwell in misery. My friend went to the zoo last week, only to realize the status of the animals was the same, if not worse. Here's a video clip from last Thursday: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUPzeWVtHBc&feature=share
More signatures are needed, the target is 5000. And above all, SAUDIS themselves need to react. The response I am seeing from Saudis is sadly very minimal. The vast majority of the signatures are coming in from non-Saudis. Why is this?
The lack of response from Saudis really bothers and angers me. Aren't they at least ashamed of what is going on in their country? Why don't people seem to care? What is the big deal in signing the petition, doing a retweet on twitter, forwarding the petition on Facebook or anything else that would only take a few seconds to accomplish? Why the indifference? Are animal rights seen as insignificant? What about their duty as Muslims to offer help to suffering animals?
I have heard all kinds of ridiculous excuses why not to sign or care about the zoo, like look at what's going on in Syria, how can you not care about that? As if caring about a cause means automatically you don't care about anything else.
Some Saudis have even commented on the various sites that the animals look fine, some even joking that the little monkey is sad because it doesn't have a girlfriend.
Believe it or not, the owner Abu Jarrah has received numerous AWARDS for his "zoo". This is as absurd as Bashar Assaad getting recognition for his evil doings. Equally disgusting, unbelievable, inhumane and outrageous. What is happening in Syria is naturally a thousand times worse and more horrific, but that doesn't make this less of a cause.
Just because atrocities are happening to innocent people, Muslims, children, in Syria and other countries as we speak, that does not mean we can just brush off everything else as insignificant does it? I hear people saying "this zoo is nothing compared to what is happening in Syria". Of course it's not! But how does that take away from the rights of these animals? How does that make for an excuse not to sign and spread the petition for example?
I find this shocking. Why don't Saudis care? How can they be so cold and unsympathetic? What is the big deal in signing the petition, what are people afraid of? There are now over 60,000 views on the YouTube videos of the zoo. Many Saudis have commented on the videos condemning them, making comments on how this is against Islam and wondering why some people don't fear Allah.
Why haven't they not all also signed the petition? This is typical, people just nag and complain yet do nothing but sit on their butts watching TV and complaining about Syria or alcohol found in Bebsi cola whatever else is offensive to Muslims at the current time. If it's not Syria it's Palestine, Iran, Afghanistan, U.S, the Jews or the Shiia. People whine but take no actions. If all those whiners did something today then there could actually be change in the world.
Saudis enjoying a tour of the Zoo of Horrors.
Even though I'm on holiday, I've been thinking about the animals and what could be done every single day and I've been working on this post for two weeks now. I've tried to contact Saudi bloggers and journalists, to no avail. Only few reacted. It has made me extremely sad and disappointed at the same time. I just don't understand what the big deal is? Why not try to help? I've written to numerous international organizations and groups that rally for animal rights but did not get any response from there either. I contacted Abu Dhabi Wildlife Center if they would have any possibility to take the animals (if they somehow could be released form their jail) and they were shocked to hear about the zoo and the initial response was positive.
After I saw the images my friend had taken from the zoo last week I've had several dreams about it. In one dream I had returned to the Zoo Of Horrors. There was a new owner, strangely it was a British man. The zoo was now a mere narrow and dark corridor. I was allowed to take a tour and proceeded into the damp pathway. Only a haunting silence could be heard and the corridor was filled with a murky smell of death. The animals were like shadows in the cages, with no signs of life. The last animal in the corridor was the grizzly bear. It was now in a cage so small its skin was touching the bars and it was not able to move. The body was thin as paper, transparent and I could see through him. Only the bears big yellow eyes were moving, turning to me with a look of horror and fear in them. I woke up to the sudden scream of the bear which it had let out without even opening its mouth.
My friend was deeply disturbed by the zoo as well. She said some animals were missing (probably taken to another circus), the male lion was limping as can be seen on the video clip, there were new animals brought in and many people were in the zoo teasing the animals. Some of the cages had incense burning on them to mask the stench, now much worse because of the soaring temperatures.
She told me how appalling it was that children had been hissing and shouting at the animals, frightening them. And what did the parents do? They LAUGHED. This is again typical behavior in Saudi. Parents actually encourage this disrespectful, laughable behavior and teach their kids contempt of animals.
I wish these people one day will get what is coming at them. What goes around comes around. How can any humanbeing laugh at another souls sad fate and misery? Who is really the higher being?
Surprisingly, the owner of the zoo, Abu Jarrah, had also been present that evening. He had been walking around the amusement park with a chimpanzee dressed in a skirt. A crowd had followed like he was the emperor of Prussia parading a golden horse. Of course they had laughed at the monkey which was scared and jumping all over the place.
I also found out the real name of the owner is Fahad Alshowaiyer. Saudi-Arabia is apparently proud of people like Abu Jarrah. By consulting Google I found that Alriyadh and other local media have written numerous praising articles about this zoo throughout the years. It looks like the torture of these animals has been going on for many more years than I thought.It's said to be the largest mobile zoo in the ME. In other words it's a circus show. That is actually illegal in KSA.
BTW, did you know the word Hadiqa, as Fahad Al Showaiyer likes to call his dungeon, means garden in Arabic? I thought gardens are green and pleasant places? There is nothing pleasant let alone green in this place. To call it a garden is just a mockery.
Here is proof he has a circus from 2008 when he showed off his animals at local festivals, which he proudly admits to: http://www.alriyadh.com/2008/10/02/article377822.html Another article dating back to 2006 where it's mentioned the zoo has an "African tiger"(anybody ever heard?) as well as a Siberian tiger, an Alaskan wolf and an Arabian Lynx among other ENDANGERED species:
In these pics from an Eid festival you can also see a tiger and two caracals. Abu Jarrah himself is posing with army officials and police all the while he is happily BREAKING THE LAW.
In the Alriyadh article the governor of Unaizah is handing out an AWARD to Mr. Alshowaiyar as recognition for the zoo. The governor is quoted saying: "The truth is that what we saw tonight is a wealth of science, I hope sincerely for the opportunity for all visitors to the festival to visit the park and take advantage of this treasure and make the most at the hands of the brother Fahad for his efforts in collecting such rare animals and also on his participation in the festival, which was deemed a distinguished addition".
Can you believe this? Is this a bad joke? It gets even better.
Listen to what Alshowaiyer himself has to say:
I love fishing, animals, and when I began to understand life into the advanced stages of my life, generated the desire to own animals. I have received a number of science courses in parenting and feeding and quite a few Veterinary Medicine courses. I became the caretaker myself of these animals and it generated our friendship (I bet the animals love him to death)and intimacy. This may be difficult for the average person to observe, but it is necessary to control such a large number of animals."
He pointed out that he toured many countries of the world, east and west for the collection (smuggling?) of these animals and being fluent in many languages, especially English, had facilitated the task of knowing where these animals live in their countries of origin (like the European lion?). He had found in collaboration officials with all the support and appreciation (wasta anyone) so easy for him to bring animals here, and said honestly, I deal with these animals in all seriousness there is time to sleep and a time for food that can not be changed no matter what happens. Taking into account the safety aspect of visitors and animals alike to take an important aspect of follow-up because we are dealing with wild animals and we must be careful always. He concluded by emphasizing of the process of expanding the park and adding other animals. He said that my intention to do a similar tour in other cities in this beloved country."
Oh dear God I don't know what to say to this. He took courses in veterinary medicine and feeding? How come his animals then are sick and not receiving proper food and all other care and facilities, not even the basics? I have so many issues with his statements I will not even begin to go there.
Seeing and hearing all this makes me feel depressed and frustrated. I feel nothing will ever happen for the better for these animals. Too many people think this is OK. Not enough are doing something.
I will leave you with a few comments to the France24 "Zoo of Horrors" article:
"What an absolute disgrace. Is Saudi Arabia a civilised country? Do Saudi's have any feelings of any kind either for humans or animals, or are all Gods creatures treated in this same inhumane way? This zoo speaks volumes for the contempt that must be endemic in Saudi for any living creature. I can see now how Osma Bin Laden came to have the views he had on his fellow human beings.Saudi Arabia may be the richest nation on earth, but it most certainly is one of the poorest nations when it comes to empathy.
Let's hope that God will be more merciful to the Saudi's than they are to animals."
Wretched, Inhumane treatment at Riyadh zoo
"These photos are horrifying! They show absolute lack of knowledge of animal needs and rights and no degree of caring. What can be done? (Saudi Arabia is a country which lacks respect for women, demonstrated in many forms. Can we expect more concern for the needs, rights, and feelings of animals?)"
I think these are very thought provoking, to the point comments Indeed, if Saudis scorn and sneer at animals this way, then they are also holding God's teachings in contempt. Where are the feelings of empathy and kindness?
What can we really expect from a country and people who view women as cattle in some circumstances?
I hope too, that God will be merciful to all the Saudis out there who don't care about what's allowed to happen in their country, to those who mock these animals in their suffering, and those who rather ignore than actually do something to help.
If you are not one of those Saudis, then prove to the world there are those of you who DO care and who DO live in accordance to Islamic teachings by signing and forwarding the petition NOW.
Here is the link: http://www.change.org/petitions/minister-of-wildlife-hrh-prince-bandar-and-riyadh-city-municipality-shut-down-fantasyland-zoo-relocate-and-treat-the-rescued-animals
If you still think this is not worth your time then all I can say is FEAR ALLAH.
I also have to mention another gross animal rights violation from Jeddah, the infamous "Fayfa bear" which has been living in a cage in a pet shop for YEARS. There is an ongoing petition which you can sign here: http://www.change.org/petitions/release-bear-at-fayfa-pet-shop-jeddah-saudi-arabia-to-a-zoo-in-the-uk
Surprisingly, ArabNews has even written an article about the bear (not a praising article) so I guess there is some hope for animals in the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia. http://www.arabnews.com/caged-bear-riles-animal-rights-group