Tens of thousands of people have been killed by the ongoing 7-year military conflict in Syria that pits the regime of Bashar al-Assad against opposition forces. Pets, too, have their own share of the war, where hundreds of cats have lost their owners.
Seeking to provide care for pets left alone, Mohammed Alaa Jaleel, a former ambulance driver from Aleppo in northwestern Syria, opened a shelter for unattended cats in 2013.
Three years later, Celil’s shelter was shelled in 2016 during the regime siege on Aleppo, but he managed to save 22 cats. He, however, opened a new shelter in Kafr Naya in Aleppo’s western countryside for unattended pets.
Jaleel named the shelter after the name of his first cat, Ernesto, and set up a clinic inside -- along with his friend Mohamed Yousef, a veterinarian -- to treat the cats.
"I have been in love with cats for ages,” Jaleel told Anadolu Agency. “I would collect meat from butchers and feed it to cats," he said.
They finance the expense of the cat house thanks to online donations from outside Syria and names the cats after the donors such as Perla, Milano, and Rose.
"We feed them here and give them healthcare,” he said. “Donations coming from abroad help us provide a special care for the cats.”
Jaleel recalls that he used to take care of some 170 cats in Aleppo when the regime intensified their attacks on the city.
"Since there was nobody living in the city, the cats took shelter by my side. However, many cats either died or ran away due to the intense regime strikes. I barely brought 22 of them during evacuations," he recalled.
Yousef, the veterinarian, said the cats were being examined every month.
"We show a private care to newborns or pregnant ones; we keep those with infectious diseases in a separate place until they complete their treatment,” he said.
Syria has only just begun to emerge from a devastating conflict that began in 2011 when the Assad regime cracked down on demonstrators with unexpected ferocity.
© Copyright Andolu Ajansi