This is the touching story of a brave and wonderful woman who is dedicating her life to stray animals in Azerbaijan. A special person, a person able to give up everything for the love and sake of animals.
This is the story of our beloved Ilhama – OIPA Representative in Azerbaijan – told in her own words:
“Before I entered the world of protection and rescuing of homeless animals, I seemed to live in another world. Remembering now for what insignificant and useless reasons I used to suffer and cry and I hate myself for this because there is something in this world, I mean in the world of stray animals, that can’t be even compared with the meaningless worries I used to have.
When you continuously see the pain, the sadness and the plea for help of these innocent souls, who anyway wag theirs tails despite the suffering and cruelty of people, nothing makes sense anymore.
I had been a fashion buyer for a long time. I often flied to Italy for work and I also studied Italian. I loved Italy and I still love it, a country where I have never felt like a stranger. However, one day, I finally took the decision. I left my favourite work and all I loved.
I started by feeding stray cats and dogs in 2017. By that time, I left the job and I also underwent a cystoscopy, with carcinoma diagnosis, since I had a tumour removed in my bladder. During that period, I was taking money from my family for the treatment but, from that amount, I was keeping a small part for feeding animals. The deeper I faced the reality, the scarier and more painful it became. I have been in the world of animal protection since 2017. Now I am 48 years old and in the last six years, I have spilled more tears than I had spilled for the previous forty-two.
Animal protection is a world of tears and grief for an animal rights activist and animal lover.
I have been saving, feeding, treating, sterilizing homeless animals with my own money and donations from few people. I sold everything I loved: gold things, favourite watches, bracelets and so on. Even now, I keep selling my things for them. I realized I do not need all this. For me, it is much more important to feed a hungry animal and to save his/her life, than to have tangible properties.
My family still cannot understand why I gave up everything and started doing this, they all think I am crazy and they can’t accept my choice. My father doesn’t even know what I am doing because he would anyway be categorically against my work and the love I feel for animals.
He doesn’t know much, even the fact that a cat lives in our house. I saved in November 2022 from the side of the road, who had a fracture of 5 ribs and a pelvis. Now she lives with a diaphragmatic hernia after an injury, since in Azerbaijan they do not risk doing such operations. I hide this cat in my room in the evenings when my dad comes home from work.
I spend almost most of my life on the streets. When everyone goes to work, I also go out in the morning to feed one part of the homeless cats, in the evening I go to feed all the cats in the area, as well as stray dogs.
A lot of stray dogs, I used to feed for many years, were caught and killed by the employees of the stray dog killing centre, which has been operating under the cover of being a care centre for 4 years already. The excuse for these murders is always the same “many people complain”- they say – so for them it’s easier to kill than save, because in Azerbaijan stray dog population is kept under control by shooting and poisoning animals by local municipalities.
I stand trial for complaining against the employees of the centre and I was fined without my guilty being proved. I’m sure that this was done intentionally to shut my mouth, because in Azerbaijan no one is allowed to actively expose and reveal what happens to homeless animals.
I used to join protests against the killing of stray animals and animal rights. For years, I have been trying to text and appeal to everyone, to complain everywhere, trying to draw attention to the situation with stray animals in our country, but I have not been heard yet. The only thing I know is that I will never give up!
It is very difficult to fight for animal rights in a country where there is no law on the protection of animals. In a country where not only you must fight against government and local authorities but also against rude and uncompassionate people of your own country that hate dogs or cats, kill them and at the same time remain unpunished.
If you want to know more about Ilhama (who is OIPA representative in Azerbaijan), her activity and the cruel reality of stray animals in her country or if you wish to help her, you can follow her social media:
FB OIPA Azerbaijan: https://www.facebook.com/OIPAAzerbaijan