Kindness is a language that everyone understands regardless of religion, race, or social status. Perhaps that is why we are always told to do unto others what we would have them do unto us. Matter of fact is it is the second greatest commandment to the Christians; to love your neighbor as you love yourself. As children, we thought that our neighbor is anyone who lives close to us. In reality, it is anyone who needs our help. What if it is not a person that does not need our help but instead it is a four-legged creature; should we turn our backs on it? Well, that is something that one man could never do. He may not be a Christian, but being a Muslim, he follows the teachings of Allah and the footsteps of Prophet Muhammad, who was kind to everyone. If you still have no idea who this man with a noble heart is, meet the cat man of Aleppo who rescues battle-weary Syrian strays as featured on BBC.
How did it all start?
They say that it is better to lack it all but be at peace, and this is an expression that the residents of Syria can relate to very well. Syria is one country that knows no peace with wars erupting now and then forcing people to seek refuge in neighboring countries. However, some are not as lucky, and they end up dying and being buried within the ruins. Those who have no means to get to other countries remain in desolation; hoping that one day, things will work out for the best. Mohammad Alaa Aljaleel is among those who chose to stay despite having the chance to flee Syria as reported on Ernesto Sanctuary. Mohammed chose to stay and help the civilians after the 2012 war broke out in Syria. However, his love for cats would have him helping the felines too by feeding the strays he came across, using money out of his own pockets. Since many people had gone and left behind their possessions including pets, the cat population was quite high, and as they spoke among themselves of the kind man who kept feeding them, Mohammed soon had more cats than he could. He, therefore, thought of opening a cat shelter to care for cats properly instead of feeding them from street corners regularly.
If you do something nice, someone will notice, and that was the case for Mohammed because soon Alessandra Abidin created a Facebook page where she posted pictures of Mohamed feeding and caring for the stray cats. She appealed for donations to help the man. The pictures touched people from across the globe, and with the money he received, Mohammed bought a piece of land next to his house and turned it into a cat shelter where the cats would come and be fed. Cats love to be pampered, and of course, with Mohammed feeding them regularly, they soon called the shelter their home. Mohammad even went ahead to give the cats a collar to encourage children to play with them, leading to a playground called Garden of Amal; Amal meaning hope.
Challenges along the way
The population grew to about 180 cats by 2016, but things turned sore when Syrian government forces took over, and bombs were everywhere in Aleppo. Getting in or out of the city was out of the question as snipers were on the roof very trigger-happy to shoot anyone who tried escaping. Water shortages and power failure were experienced throughout the city, but Mohammed had stored enough food and water. Furthermore being an electrician, he was able to fix the lighting. Unfortunately, more problems came their way when gas bombs were dropped, killing most of the cats at the shelter. Mohammed looked for the surviving cats and distributed them to his friends as he left his home to go to the refugee camp at the Syria Turkish border. With his kind heart, Mohammed was not just interested in getting his animals, to safety. Despite his problems, he still went looking for human survivors and took them to the underground hospitals.
A fresh start
Mohammed may have been forced out of his home, but he does not give up easily. After staying for a while in Turkey, he went to Syria taking one cat to keep him company. Still feeling it is his mission to help stray cats, Mohammed established a new and bigger shelter at Kafr Naha. His dream came true thanks to donations from those who shared his compassion for the feline population. Ernestos Paradise came to be, and now Mohammed has more than 200 cats who have made it their home. A few others prefer their freedom and go to the shelter to feed only. However, it is not just about giving them food. Mohammed has made it his mission to provide the cats with the best life possible. So apart from the mincemeat at lunchtime, the shelter has a veterinarian to check on the animals as showed on Haaretz. Since the veterinarian is qualified, even the locals take their pets to him since they have established a clinic at the sanctuary.
Did he always want to be a cat man?
Evet child has a vision of who he would like to be upon becoming an adult, and Mohammed wanted to be a foreman, like his father. Unfortunately, in Syria, such a job requires knowing a person in high places, and since Mohammed nor his father did not know anyone, his applications were rejected. He ended becoming an electrician and doing some military service. However, his love for cats has always been in him since Mohammed was a little boy, and he encouraged his peers to be kind to the animals. He has extended his sanctuary to care not just for the felines, but for rabbits, dogs, monkeys, a chicken, and a thoroughbred horse. Mohammed’s only regret is that it took a war-torn Syria for his dream to come true.