Alaa, more than the cat man of Aleppo


We haven’t heard much out of Aleppo recently. It seems everything has calmed down. Don’t be fooled by the silence. Recently there has been a lot of action. How do I know? Not because it’s a hot topic in English language media.

I know because I follow Alaa, the cat man.

I am no longer sure of when I became aware of him, but I immediately felt I was a kindred spirit. He had chosen not to leave Aleppo, but to remain and take care of the abandoned or lost cats left behind due to the war.

Alaa not only cares for animals, but has his own ambulance and is constantly saving others. While I’ve been following him, his sanctuary got destroyed and most of the animals were killed. He is on his third ambulance. But this hasn’t stopped him.

Supported by locals and fuelled by donations from caring people all over the world, he has found a new space in the countryside near Aleppo and continues to rebuild and rescue animals (mainly cats).

His new paradise for cats is called The House of Ernesto. Ernesto was his cat and was lost in the shelling of the first house.

Earlier this year, he was contacted by the owner of a zoo that could no longer feed his animals. Through the nearly 24,000 members of the House of Ernesto Facebook group, it was possible to make contact with Four Paws, and they were transported out of Syria. Naturally that took a while, and Alaa was taking care of them until they could be taken to safety.

Stone mason cuts names of donators to go above the cat houses.
Without social media, this would not be possible. Daily photos and videos showing safe kitties happily eating, disabled kids who have received donations. You can even name and sponsor your own cat.

And Alaa has proven himself to be honest and trustworthy. When people approached him who were just in it for the money, he stepped away.

I really don’t know how Alaa keeps his energy.

Besides taking care of the animals, he continues to drive his ambulance. And he has created a playground for children on site. There, they have various activities and parties for kids.

As I write this, surrounded by my own purring rescue family, there is heavy shelling in the area where the House of Ernesto is. I hope he, the animals and everyone who helps him stay safe.

Artist, curator and writer: maeshelle west-davies gleans her varied life experiences to expose a personal perspective through a multitude of mediums.

2017 conference logo - European Centre for Press and Media Freedom.
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