I challenge you not to get choked up when you read about the Cat Man of Aleppo.
Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel is an angel mired in the hellhole that is Syria. If you’re reading this from the comfort of a Barcolounger in suburbia, it’s hard to imagine life in Aleppo. If you’re Gary Johnson, you’ve probably never even heard of it.
Once an electrician, Alaa now drives ambulances and searches for victims in the rubble of airstrikes. But mostly, he is the angel caretaker of about 150 displaced cats trying to survive their explosive environment.
He runs a makeshift sanctuary for feline victims of the ravages of war. It began, like many great projects, quite by accident. He noticed a small colony of strays lingering near an area leveled by an airstrike. Like any cat lover, he couldn’t turn his back on them, so he brought food. And then there were more cats. And more food.
When people he knows flee the country, they leave their cats in his care. The Civil Defence Force brings him injured cats.
“Any stray cats in Aleppo, or pet cats left behind by residents, we protect them in this little sanctuary,” Alaa told the BBC. “Since everyone left the country, including my own friends, these cats have become my friends here.”
Each day he buys meat scraps from the butcher, and the butcher sometimes tosses in a little extra, gratis. Alaa mixes in rice and anything he can find, then feeds the gang.
He could have fled Syria with so many others when war erupted. He had a job lined up in Turkey. But he and his family opted to stay. He wanted to be there to help those in need. For him, those in need turned out to be a bunch of homeless cats.
“I regard animals and humans in the same light,” he told Newsweek. “All of them suffer pain, and all of them deserve compassion.”
There’s a playground next door to his sanctuary, so Alaa puts red collars on the friendly household cats so the kids know which ones they can pet safely.
As things continue to worsen in Aleppo, Alaa has plans to stay. He feels a responsibility to be a steward of these cats’ well-being. He’s all they’ve got. He’d like to establish and run an animal shelter one day. For now, though, it’s just rough-and-tumble street cat care.
“I said I’ll stay with them no matter what happens,” he told the BBC. “Someone who has mercy in their heart for humans has mercy for every living thing.”
“Every day, when I leave my house, I know I might not return.”
HOW YOU CAN HELP
- It’s not possible to send funds directly to someone in Syria, so donations are routed through a French group, Syria Charity. Crowdfunding keeps the kittehs fed and helps the neighborhood in many other ways.
- Follow the cats and their angel by joining the Facebook groups, Il Gattaro D’Aleppo and Cats of Aleppo.
- Say a little prayer that nominee Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel wins the Nobel Peace Prize. You can show you support for him here. He certainly does more to promote peace than fellow nominee Donald Trump. (Winners will be announced 10/7.)
Few people on the planet would take such extraordinary risks for the sake of a few hundred cats. Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel we salute you.
[Photo credits: Alaa Alaa Aljeleel Facebook page]