Saturday, December 4

Kabul Zoo wants to disarm the Taliban

Special Envoy to Kabul



Marjan takes a nap in the shade of the hut located in the center of a closed area with high green fences. At one of the ends hangs a poster in which you can read that Marjan is a white lion and it is undoubtedly the most photographed animal in the Kabul Zoo. Two Taliban go out of their way to take pictures of him and try to imitate the roars to provoke the beast, but are unsuccessful. They insist with all their determination, they leave their rifles on the ground, they hit the fence … but Marjan does not come out of her deep sleep.

This zoo opened in 1967 and was one of King Zahir Shah’s dreams

, who wanted to bring together the best of the Afghan fauna. It has survived the Soviet occupation, the civil war, the first ’emirate’, the intervention of the United States and now the return of some Taliban who come every day to visit the park. “Some pay the entrance (30 Afghanis, 0.30 euros to change), others pass by without stopping at the box office, they say that they have not been paid for months and that they cannot pay. What bothers us the most is that they enter armed and our goal is to have a weapon-free space “, reports Najibula, a director’s assistant who has had to go out to see the new authorities and learn about their future plans with the park. For now, unlike what happens in other public places, the three workers on the staff can go to work.

Najibula, next to the sculpture in homage to Marjan
Najibula, next to the sculpture in homage to Marjan

In the park there is always a lion named Marjan, in memory of the one who lived to his 25th birthday and who, according to legend, ate a mujahideen who entered his cage. The militiaman’s brother came the next day with a grenade and as a result of the explosion the animal lost an eye and a large part of its teeth. This is how he lived until 2002, which means that he was left without seeing the great improvements in this place that, like much of Kabul, was crushed during the civil war. His statue now presides over the entrance to the enclosure.

The one who will never have a souvenir figure will be Khanzir, a word that in Arabic means pig and that arrived in Kabul the same year as Marjan’s death. This common pig, a gift from China, lived to be 17 years old and was an example of exoticism because it was the only specimen in a country where pig consumption is prohibited. It is a mystery to know how the Taliban would have acted with a pig in the park.

Half visits

“The arrival of the Emirate has not changed the day to day of our work, but we have noticed that the visits have decreased, we have half the visitors than before,” says Najibula, who insists on the importance of dthrow your guns in the street “Because the atmosphere is very familiar and we usually have a lot of children, especially on Fridays. The Taliban, in general, enter and do not stop taking photos and taking selfies with the animals, for them it is an absolute novelty, andn their life they have seen a monkey, a bear or a lion. They also feed them, although the signs clearly state that it is not allowed, ”the assistant director said indignantly.

Zoo animals attend from their cages to the arrival of a new type of visitors, some Taliban with their turbans, long beards and weapons on their shoulders. King Marjan is not impressed at the moment by this new human fauna that tries, unsuccessfully, to capture his attention.

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