The mynah bird, which was once a pet of an Afghan young woman, now lives in a new cage in Abu Dhabi’s living room.
The yellow-beaked, talkative “Juji”, who was a yellow-beaked man, made a short star on social media. Its story of survival in the chaos of evacuations from Taliban-run Afghanistan struck a chord with a global audience.
The American-led airlift of Kabul from Kabul after 20 years war was a dramatic spectacle. However, France also played a significant role in the evacuation of those who had sacrificed their lives for their country’s good over the years.
French Ambassador Xavier Chatel was on hand to help support efforts at Al-Dhafra, an air base in the United Arab Emirates. Over 12 hot August days, thousands of Afghan refugees flooded the UAE capital and military bases throughout the region. They were then screened by American, French, and other authorities.
Chatel, who lives overlooking the turquoise waters in the Persian Gulf, told The Associated Press that there were many “exhilarating stories” because artists, musicians, and people were so relieved they could evacuate. “But there was also an outpouring in distress.”
There were 2,600 Afghan artists, journalists, journalists, activists, and military contractors who were able to squeeze onto planes from Kabul to Abu Dhabi, on their way to Paris. They had barely enough time to think about all that they’d left behind. Chatel stated that evacuations had been initiated by French authorities around a year ago. 2,400 people were airlifted from Kabul during the months prior to the fall.
Chatel was alerted by security officers in the midst chaos at Al-Dhafra. Officers were on the lookout to find al-Qaida or Islamic State extremist threats and discovered illegal cargo aboard.
A woman of no more than twenty appeared clutching a mysterious cardboard box. Her beloved pet, a clipped-winged mynah, was found inside. It is common in Southeast Asia.
However, she couldn’t take the small bird to Paris because of sanitary concerns.
Chatel described her as in tears and shaking, her body shaking. For privacy reasons, he declined to reveal any details about the young woman or her circumstances except to say that she had “lost everything.” She had lost her country. She had lost her home, and she had lost her entire life.”
Chatel’s story about what happened next became a Twitter sensation last week. It made Juji a minor sensation and provided an encouraging counterpoint to the humanitarian and economic crises that were plaguing Afghanistan during the Taliban takeover.
Chatel agreed to adopt Juji after receiving detailed instructions on Juji’s diet preferences (cucumbers, grapes and bread slices, with the occasional potato), and he promised to take good care.
Shortly after arriving in France, the young woman discovered the ambassador via Twitter. She thought of her pet, who was stranded on an Arabian Peninsula island, when she started a new life in France as a refugee.
Chatel responded with videos of Juji eating fruit, flying around its white cage, and learning French from his marble-floored living area. Juji managed to say something similar to “Bonjour” after chirping in Pashto its first few days in Abu Dhabi.
Chatel stated, “(The woman) had told me something that still stays with me,” Chatel. “The fact that the bird was alive and well cared for gave her faith and hope that she could start over.”
Chatel did not know the reason for the social media enthusiasm surrounding this story. Despite the painstaking withdrawal of NATO and U.S forces, there was no good news for Afghanistan.
Late August saw the suicide bomber attack Kabul’s airport, killing 13 U.S. military personnel and dozens of Afghans. Those who managed to flee their homes in order to start new lives abroad were left feeling confused and guilty. Ordinary people struggle to survive in a country where the economy is in free fall.
Chatel stated that you could see fear on the faces of people at Al-Dhafra’s August air base. Children wept at the sound of balloons popping. One woman claimed she had “forgotten her parents” in a traumatic fog at Kabul airport. Parents brought stories about children they had abandoned.
Chatel cannot reunite Juji and its owner until then. He said that the black-winged bird is a reminder to France about those chaotic days — the courage of those who embark on new lives, as well as the emotional toll of those left behind.
Chatel stated, “In the middle all this,” “in the middle all these hundreds of people arriving here,” “there was this girl and this bird.”