CAIRO: After an estimated five years of “entrapment” behind a wall in a Cairo Metro station, a cat was saved from its “tomb” and brought into the daylight, thanks to an elderly man who fed it every day all those years and a group of women who pressured to set it free.
Sometime in 2010, the cat found a hiding spot between the outer surface of the wall and a fire extinguisher installment at the Mohamed Naguib Metro station in downtown Cairo. One day, however, the cat squeezed into a hole in the wall and did not come out again, the cat’s caregiver, known as Uncle Abdo, told Veto Gate Friday. Uncle Abdo, the owner of a glasses shop right outside the station, named the cat Biso.
“When we removed the wall, a heinous smell emerged from the dark hole, which was 15-centimeter wide and four-meter long. It was like a tomb. There were black worms along four meters of the edge, where Uncle Abdo was able to put in food for Biso,” Mounira Shehata, an animal rights activist who participated in the rescue, told The Cairo Post Tuesday.
On March 12, someone posted a picture of Biso’s tail hanging from behind the wall on “Help and rescue homeless animals” Facebook page, complaining that he could not break the wall to free the cat because it would be considered sabotage of public property.
Another person shared the picture on the “Save an Innocent Animal’s Soul” page on Facebook; that is how Shehata found out about Biso and took off with Marwa Elgebaly, a fellow animal rights activist, to save the cat. Their friend Rania el-Kordy, who shares the same interests, followed them on the day of the rescue.
Veto Gate released a video the same day of someone feeding luncheon to Biso behind the wall, in which the cat’s paw appears trying to grasp the meat, and a similar one the next day of Uncle Abdo.
Shehata and Elgebaly spoke to employees at the metro station in the evening of March 12, but they were told they needed to come March 14 when the maintenance official would be present, as the 13th was a Friday and is part of the weekend.
Nevertheless, Dina Zulfikar, a renowned and accredited animal rights worker who knew about Biso from social media, filed a report at the Abdeen police station March 13, along with animal rights defender Dalia Shaheen. The police and civil defense personnel arrived at the metro and informed the head of Mohamed Naguib metro station there was a prosecution order to rescue Biso. The workers were brought from their homes on their day off.
Uncle Abdo told Masr al-Arabia he used to feed the cat when it was free as a kitten. Biso hid between the outer surface of the wall and a fire extinguisher installment, but after a “stronger cat” beat Biso, it escaped into the hole and never came out, Uncle Abdo said. A few years ago, workers at the station tried to get Biso out, but it was scared off and remained inside, he added.
“I do it for God. What is for God does not go away,” Uncle Abdo told Masr al-Arabia, adding that “God rids” him a lot of problems because of such charity.
Amid lawlessness during the January 25 Revolution in 2011, most stores were closed, including Uncle Abdo’s. He still went to the station daily to feed Biso, he told Masrawy.
Terrified, Biso only came out after Amr, a worker at the station, went inside the hole to get it.
Biso, however, swiftly ran away before anyone could catch it. The rescue took over five hours, according to Shehata. She and Uncle Abdo are still looking for Biso inside the metro station.
Coincidently, Mohamed Naguib metro station is named after Egypt’s first President, known as an avid animal lover.
Earlier in March, four men were sentenced to three years in prison over torturing and slaughtering a tied dog, Max, in a brutal video that outraged many Egyptians. The defendants’ appeal was accepted March 12, leading to a retrial.
“Max’s case encouraged people to help stray and abandoned animals; they previously did not know whom to reach and whether rescue was possible. But it was also met with aggression by a minority,” Shehata, 42, told The Cairo Post.
Other people in separate locations reacted to the ruling by poisoning several stray dogs, as was reported to animal rights groups.
“Some people tried to provoke us on our pages by slamming the sentence that punished people for killing an animal. They talked about our activities with such disdain,” she said.
“But they do not understand that we really have a relationship with the animals; we understand the look in their eyes and know whether they are comfortable or afraid,” she added.
During the rescue of Biso, with every carriage stopping at the platform, passengers approached the crowd to ask whether it was a bomb, according to Shehata. The question is not unpredicted in Cairo nowadays, as defusing, or detonating explosive devices has been frequent since the 2013 ouster of President Mohamed Morsi.
When the passengers were told it was a cat rescue, some were shocked, opened their eyes widely and left speechlessly, Shehata said, adding that others cheered “bravo” and stayed on site to follow the rescue.
“Shock is not a negative reaction. Those people will take the time to think about they saw, and they will probably reconsider how they look at animals,” Shehata said.
Shehata was raised seeing her father feeding cats outside his supermarket. He taught her not to send a hungry cat at her doorstep away, she said.
Ten years ago, she lost her cat for a month. She asked people in the area about the cat until she found it, but was not pained while the cat was away as much as she was when she reclaimed it. Beaten by other cats, dirty and hungry, the cat prompted Shehata to think of all stray cats like her own, and to see domesticated cats on the street as lost, rather than abandoned.
Her love for animals took her to the Egyptian Society for Mercy to Animals on Facebook, then to their headquarters. The abused animals she saw made her engage deeply in rescuing animals.
“Although Mounira’s face cannot be seen, and this is something I probably should not say, but I swear to God, and I am Christian and a Christian does not swear, if Mounira removed her niqab we would find an angelic face that can light up the world like the sun,” Adham Lovesnana commented on the above picture on Shehata’s Facebook.
“Mounira, you know how much I respect you and I deal with you like a little sister, and I thank and appreciate you for what you do. Of course, I thank the two moons standing next to you, who proved they’re worth a hundred men and did things no one can. I will talk about myself; I learn something new from you every day. Maybe my heart is very hard, but I learned from you to have mercy over animals, regardless their species. Thank you,” he wrote.
Animal rights in Egypt
The Egyptian Federation for Animal Welfare sent a letter to President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi March 14, requesting the adoption of a draft law on animal welfare on the basis of the 2014 constitution. Animal rights defenders were able to include animal welfare as a state obligation per article 45, as well as protecting endangered and rare animals.
Article 357 of the Penal Code stipulates a prison term of six months maximum, or a fine of not over 200 EGP ($26,) for the intentional killing or harm of domesticated animals. Max’s killers; however, were also charged with possessing bladed weapons and “terrorizing” passersby.