The Iranian clergyman and animal whisperer

Published December 4th, 2016 - 11:40 GMT
A stray dog stares from behind the fence at the Vafa animal shelter in the town of Hashtgerd, some 70 kms west of Iran's capital Tehra. (AFP/Behrouz Mehri)
A stray dog stares from behind the fence at the Vafa animal shelter in the town of Hashtgerd, some 70 kms west of Iran's capital Tehra. (AFP/Behrouz Mehri)

Ghandi once said that “the greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way it’s animals are treated.” If the instagram account of one Iranian cleric is anything to go by, it appears Iran is making great headway in this department.

Komeil Nezafati, a 33-year old mullah from Iran, has gained a mass following on instagram as he documents his touching encounters helping the country’s stray dogs and cats. With over 26,000 followers, Nezafati’s kindness towards animals has captured the imagination of the social media world.

The account originated after Nezafati came across a starving puppy on the streets, just under a year ago. Previously, Nezafati had been afraid of dogs but he was compelled to help the animal and nourish it back to health. From that instant onwards, Nezafati has dedicated his time to helping stray animals in need.

“Later, as I was traveling from Tehran to Amol, I gave any extra food I had to the dogs I saw on the side of the road. I took photographs of them and posted them on Instagram,” he told the Iran wire.

Nazafati has taken his passion for helping animals a step further, setting up an organisation called Mehr (Kindess) to feed stray city animals. He also opened a treatment center for them which currently cares for 100 dogs and 150 cats. In addition to this, Nezafati cares for 500 birds in his home, including geese, ducks, and an ostrich.

Nezafati’s occupation is somewhat controversial, due to the widespread belief among Muslims that dogs are “unclean.”. While Nezafati agrees that Islam does deem dogs to be unclean and therefore untouchable, this has not deterred him.

“Islamic practice actually advises its followers to be kind to dogs and other animals,” he told the Iran wire. “Nowhere does Islam recommend that you should abuse animals or kill them.”

Iran’s stray dogs have long been an issue for the country, and the municipality has previously come under criticism for killing the animals, often in brutal ways.

Nazafati hopes one day to build animal shelters as a way to address Iran’s problem with stray animals, to avoid them being unnecessarily killed and tortured. But until he can find the financial resources to do so, he continues to help in anyway he can, using instagram to raise awareness of animal rights.

AM

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