The Kabul Zoo

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As the news circulated yesterday of yet another Taliban bomb attack in Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 64 people and injuring more than 300, was reminded of a story I recently came across in a book called The Taliban Shuffle. (now a major motion picture starring Tina Fey) It was about the Kabul Zoo and its most famous resident Marjan the lion.  Marjan which means coral or precious stone in Persian, was given to the Kabul Zoo by the Germans along with a lioness called Chucha in 1978 . He was donated in order to quite rumors of a Soviet invasion. Of course within a year the Soviets invaded Afghanistan anyway and like all the other sites in Kabul the zoo also suffered the consequences.

Kabul, Afghanistans capital City was captured in 1992 by Jihadi groups and the Government lost control. As soon as the Russians left Afghanistan warlords moved in and a terrible civil war broke out. They began shelling and sending rockets into Kabul, as a result the walls of the zoo came tumbling down. The medical unit was destroyed making it impossible to treat any of the animals. Disease and hunger spread like wild-fire. Although many of the animals were eaten or died the fledgling zoo somehow remained open. Continue reading

A Face in the Crowd

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We have all heard about the terrible migrant crisis going on at the moment. It is the largest influx of people in Europe since the end of WW2. Many of them are fleeing from civil war and economic crisis. Today I heard an extraordinary story about one refugee that I thought I would share with you. Sixteen year old Noujain Mustaffa from Kobani in Syria is one of the thousands of refugees fleeing her home country. Noujain has Cerebral Palsy and is in a wheelchair. She became known to the world last month when she and her sister along with about forty other migrants made the dangerous crossing from Turkey to the Greek Island of Lesbos in a small dingy. She was photographed by Irish photographer Ivor Prickett being helped out of the boat. Prickett was on an assignment in Lesbos for the United Nations Refugee Agency. He later posted pictures of her on his Instagram and spoke of their interaction:

Let me tell you about an amazing young woman I met a few days ago. 16-year old Syrian refugee Nogeen, who is a wheelchair user, landed on the Greek Island of Lesvos after crossing the Aegean in an inflatable boat from Turkey. She and her older sister Nisreen had made the journey along with 40 or so other Syrians. The girls had decided to make the journey to Europe so that Nougain could receive better medical attention. After a very rough crossing, which had left most of the passengers cold and terrified, Nogeen seemed extremely calm and happy. A fluent English speaker, when i asked if she had been afraid during the crossing she said “No i enjoyed it. I have never been on a boat before, It was very beautiful. I didn’t know if I was going to live or die, but thanks God we are here”. Ivor Prickett

Two weeks later Noujain appeared again stranded on the border between Serbia and Hungary. Hungary had closed its doors and so hundreds of refugees were congregating wondering where to turn next. Here she met BBC journalist Fergal Keane and talked to him about her journey so far. During this interview Noujain comes across as a bright, funny engaging young girl. She talks about her dreams of becoming an astronaut and meeting the Queen. Continue reading