Born To Help: Syria Bikers Deliver Ramadan Meals

Every evening during Ramadan, members of a motorcycling club ride through Damascus’ neighborhoods, delivering meals to those in need during the Muslim holy month.

“We hit the most disadvantaged areas,” said Tarek Obaid, the head of Hope Bikers Syria, whose 50 volunteers prepare and distribute meals to several charities in the Syrian capital.

The bikers, some of whom have beards or wear enormous silver rings on their fingers, set off as twilight approaches, racing to deliver the meal so that Muslims can break their afternoon fast.

The volunteers put on their club’s characteristic blue vest, which has their logo stitched on the front and back: a blazing motorcycle and the Syrian flag.

They help out for “humanitarian or moral” reasons, according to Obaid, a swimming coach in his fifties who oversees the Ramadan rounds.

However, the act of charity helps to reduce the stigma associated with bikes and their “Born to be Wild” reputation.

“Before, people avoided the motorbikes when they saw them, but now they are happy to see our blue (vests) or hear the noise of our bikes,” Obaid told the AFP news agency.

The club claims to have no political affiliations and has both Christian and Muslim members.

The Muslims among them break their fast when the rounds are completed.

‘They love us.’

“People have gotten to know us, they smile at us, and they love us,” Obaid remarked as he directed the sport, dirt, and classic motorcycle riders.

Syria has been wrecked by 13 years of conflict, which has killed over 500,000 people and devastated the country’s economy and infrastructure.

According to the UN, almost 90% of the population lives in poverty.

The motorcycle club began volunteering during the Covid-19 outbreak, bringing oxygen bottles to persons in desperate need.

As the pandemic abated, the motorcyclists moved their focus elsewhere, including assisting victims of an earthquake in February last year that devastated areas of Syria, killing almost 6,000 people.

They have also collaborated with non-governmental organisations to organise recreational events for orphaned youngsters.

Earlier in the day, volunteers gathered at a charity kitchen in Damascus to cook vegetables, pork, and rice before packaging the meals for distribution.

They put on their silver, black, or bright yellow helmets and prepare to ride into the sunset, this time to an elderly home on Damascus’ outskirts.

The bikes weave through congested locations, avoiding heavy traffic, to deliver the food quickly.

They cover the cost of fuel themselves, which is a huge benefit in a country plagued by petrol shortages that drive up costs, especially since subsidies were removed last year.

“Even though the motorcycles use less gasoline, we struggle to get fuel” owing to shortages and high prices, said George Hafteh, 37, a photographer and one of the bikers.

Motorcycles have also developed a terrible reputation during Syria’s economic crisis, as robbers frequently utilize them to steal bags or phones from people on the street.

However, Hafteh stated that the group was attempting to restore motorcycling to “its place in society, taking on our responsibility towards the people”.

When they get at the elderly center, he and his other riders carry the meals up to the rooms and distribute them to folks in their beds.

Fellow club member Amer Totanji, 31, who works for a private company, says he enjoys what he can accomplish on a motorcycle.

They are “more than just a mode of transportation” and have evolved into “a means of assisting people in need,” he said.

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