Aleppo Cat Sanctuary Provides Compassion in the Midst of Mayhem

Aleppo’s cat man is back! Amidst the turmoil, upheaval and heartache of the fighting in Syria’s capital, Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel is providing compassion to abandoned pets.

Back in 2016, Mohammed, or Alaa as he’s usually called, touched our hearts with an interview about his cat sanctuary.

As the fighting started in the streets of Aleppo and residents fled to safety, many left behind their cats. Alaa built up a sanctuary to for around 180 cats, along with the strays already living in the area. Even when his friends and neighbors fled the city, Alaa remained, determined to care for these cats who had no one else.

Alaa explains:

The area I was in had hundreds of thousands of residents. They all left. How many abandoned pets do you think that means were left behind? They were stuck in the abandoned houses or left homeless on the streets.

Not long after news of Alaa’s sanctuary went viral, it was bombed and chlorine-gassed, meaning the death of many of his feline charges. And as the siege intensified, Alaa was among thousands of civilians trapped in Aleppo, moving from district to district for survival.

Even so, he did his best to keep the cats safe. Alaa and his team of volunteers managed to rehome 22 cats with families. Alaa says, “we gave each family two cats in a plastic vegetable basket.”

During this horrific period, Alaa never lost his kindness, continuing to care for any stray cats he came across, as well as driving injured people to underground hospitals.

When Aleppo fell, Alaa loaded up his van with injured people, in addition to the last six cats he’d managed to save from his sanctuary, and traveled to Turkey for safety. But he longed to go home.

When it was safer to do so, Alaa smuggled himself back into Syria – with a Turkish cat for company, of course!

Alaa set up a new cat sanctuary in Kafr Naha, which has received donations from all over the world, thanks to his posts about the sanctuary on Facebook and Twitter. And continuing with his love of the community, Alaa has built a playground where he has re-established the animal welfare courses he’d run at the height of the bombing.

Through play and animal care, he encourages the children to develop their empathy while providing them with a sanctuary away from the horrible realities of their world.

Alaa’s new sanctuary is now a safe haven for cats, an orphanage, a kindergarten and a veterinary clinic. He survives purely on generous donations, receiving no government funding or official charity support at all. Alaa is a firm believer that children learning to help vulnerable animals means they will learn compassion and tolerance for people as well.

He explains, “if we don’t show mercy to animals, we can’t be merciful with one another.” It’s a beautiful philosophy, one that we could all benefit from considering!

In Alaa’s words, “children and animals are the big losers in the Syrian war. It’s the adults who so often behave badly.” And it’s true; he might not be at risk of bombing anymore, but when local gangs in the rebel-area realized he was receiving funding for his sanctuary, they attempted to kidnap him.

Alaa is a survivor and a determined hard worker, offering inspiration to people across the globe. His sanctuary now has dogs, monkeys, rabbits and even a chicken, as well as his beloved cats. He cares for 105 children in the orphanage with 11 “permanent” boarders, and he continues to keep the community spirit alive.

Alaa’s sanctuary is not without its problems. It relies totally on donations, and the region still experiences regular fighting, meaning that care and compassion sometimes happens with a backdrop of constant gunfire.

Despite these challenges, Alaa and his team are an example of fighting for what is important to us even in the hardest of circumstances. Alaa grew up wanting to be a firefighter, with his goal in life only to help others. His story proves that our dreams are achievable — even if they don’t follow the most obvious of paths.

Photo Credit: Emre Gencer/Unsplash

110 comments

Leo Custer
Leo C21 days ago

Thank you for posting!

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Shaz R
Sharonaway R24 days ago

Such a kind and compassionate man. Thank you.

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Diane E
Diane E26 days ago

Carry on Alaa and team. You work wonders!

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Jan S
Jan S27 days ago

thanks for sharing

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Frances G
Carla G27 days ago

Many thanks

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Linda Wallace
Linda Wallace28 days ago

What a kind man

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Joanna P
Joanna P28 days ago

Why do we allow politicians to rule the world? Are we still mediaeval that we need a king? All wars are caused by politicians. Replace politicians with governors, each one in charge of what we need for our taxes: health, education, infrastructure, judiciary and a small military (in need, everyone fights). Governors face instant dismissal when targets are not met on budget. What is the point of dividing countries between them and us politics when all anyone wants is a safe, happy life with free opportunities?

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JinnySITEISSUES L
JinnySITEISSUES Labout a month ago

Compassion goes a long way in helping all species. We need more of it. Thank you Mohammed Alaa al-jaleel and all those who honor it. Thanks for sharing.

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Dot A
Dot Aabout a month ago

It is people such as Mohammed Alaa al-Jaleel who will truly change the world. Impressive and humbling to know of him and his acts of unselfish kindness in such a harsh reality. God Bless.

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Janis K
Janis Kabout a month ago

Thanks for sharing.

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