Lifestyle & Belief

Hello Kitty factory remains open in Aleppo


Syrian supporters of the Al-Nusra group wave flags as they march during an anti-regime demonstration in Aleppo on Feb. 8, 2013.


Aamir Qureshi

It seems fairly obvious that Aleppo, one of Syria's largest cities where rebels, regime forces and recently, a Kurdish militia group (as GlobalPost reported) have clashed with each other, is not a stable or safe place to run a business. 

And in fact, most factories in the once-business-friendly Aleppo have shut down operations. But through the destruction, death and economic turmoil, The Christian Science Monitor has found one factory whose owners decided to say: an embroidery factory that produces images of Hello Kitty and Mickey Mouse. 

On the lower level of a multi-story building, young men and children have been working to embroider baby blankets featuring the two characters.  

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The owner of the embroidery factory lives in an area still under government control, so his former senior foreman now comes to opposition-controlled Aleppo to run the place. “This building has been hit with two mortar rounds, but they didn’t damage the factory,” he told The Monitor. “The lights went out and our machines stopped, but that was it.” Now, he says, they rely on a power generator.

The decision to keep the factory open stems from, what else, consumer demand. Despite the Japanese origins of the character, it' s a hit in the Middle East, and the majority of clients of this particular factory are Iraqi.  "Hello Kitty is one of the most unique and interesting characters ever created," wrote Al Bawaba, an online news site serving the Middle East and North Africa. 

In addition to Japanese cartoons, Western cartoon characters have also long been known to be a hit overseas — even among people who aren't fans of Western culture. Hamas TV has regularly come under fire for using a Mickey Mouse-like character to attempt to teach children about subjects such as jihad.