UAE: French envoy gives new home to pet bird of evacuated Afghan girl

Ashwani Kumar /Abu Dhabi Filed on October 6, 2021
Photo Courtesy: Twitter

Now, Juji the mynah can say 'Bonjour'.

In a heart-warming act of kindness, the French envoy in Abu Dhabi has offered a new home to a pet bird of an Afghan girl.

The girl named Alia — who was evacuated from Kabul following the Taliban takeover — was en route to France via Abu Dhabi but her little mynah wasn’t allowed on the flight.

So, Xavier Chatel, the French Ambassador to the UAE, brought Alia’s pet to his official residence. And with a bit of training, the mynah can now say ‘Bonjour’.

Chatel took to Twitter to share his inspiring story of taking care of the bird.

Chatel was moved as Alia cried silently because, for “sanitary reasons”, the bird wasn’t permitted on the plane to France. The envoy promised the girl that he would take care of the bird and she could visit anytime and take him back. “I won’t forget her look of desperate gratefulness.”


Afghan evacuees in UAE recall horror, tears as they fled Kabul

Photos: Evacuated Afghan families find aid, relief in UAE

During the mass evacuation, France flew out nearly 3,000 people, including more than 2,600 Afghans from Kabul.

“During that heavy fortnight at the base, I was sleeping two or three hours a day, so intense was the evacuation organisation. On a dizzy interlude I took Juji (the bird) to the French residence.”

But it wasn’t an easy ride home for the ambassador as the mynah escaped his box and made a “big mess” in the car.

“He hid beneath the seat and wouldn’t budge. When I tried to talk him into coming back, the fierce little fellow showed me that if he survived the Kabul airport, I was no match.

“So, I bought him a nice cage, fed him, took him out in the cool mornings so he could see other birds. He has a girlfriend now—a dove that visits him every day. So, he loosened up and started, at night, to say mysterious things, in a language we couldn’t understand.

Chatel spent a few minutes every day trying to teach Juji some French words, starting with ‘Bonjour’.

“But the thing is: Juji doesn’t like men. He frowned at me and looked angrily, while he giggled at females. I went on trying hopelessly my daily ‘Bonjour’— but sure enough he wouldn’t listen.”

One day, the female manager of the French residence sent him a video capturing the moments when Juji said ‘Bonjour’. Chatel noted that the instance went straight to his heart.

And on Tuesday, Alia found Chatel on Twitter and was happy to know her bird is in good hands.

“She wanted me to teach him French. Alia, your bird has become the embassy’s mascot, but he is here for you, and if I can, I’ll take him personally to you one day,” the ambassador added.


Ashwani Kumar

I am a newspaperman from the emirate of Abu Dhabi. A journalist at heart. I get my stories from the streets. A south Indian born in the Hindi heartland, I easily connect with people from different nationalities and cultures. I am calm like a monk, sensitive and very patient reporter. On the ground, I cover a range of topics related to community, health, embassy, tourism, transport, business and sports. I will go out on a leg to do what’s right and stand by what I believe in.

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