The four decades of war and destruction not only brought unfortunate and sorrowful pain to people of Afghanistan, but showed no mercy to animals and greeneries as well. The wildlife and jungles were destroyed during the war and three were cut down by Jihadi commanders to be sold as timber in Pakistan. Books can be written to mention the harsh realities, but the painful story of Marjan is enough to project the condition of all animals in the country.
Marjan, a male lion born in 1976 in Koln Zoo and gifted to Kabul Zoo in 1978. Later, Chucha, a lioness, joined him. Since then, both witnessed crimes committed after the coup of Khalqis and Parchamis, the puppets of Russia, in their new home, not knowing one day it will also come after them. The ignoramus Jihad factions, supported by Pakistan and Iran regimes, took over riding on the bruised shoulders of our people, and now it was time for Marjan and Chucha, and other inhabitants of Kabul Zoo.
With the start of Jihadi inter-faction battles, the animals of Kabul Zoo were dying of hunger. The guardians of zoo, who since many years were treating the animals as their children, were taking the risk for their life to look after their beloved innocent animals, without receiving any salary or benefits. They were bringing the left-overs groceries and fruits from market and useless parts of animals from butcher shop, crossing many frontlines, to save the zoo animals.
Kabul City streets had become Jihadi factions’ war front. The area, accommodating Kabul Zoo, was the frontline between Hezb-e-Wahdat, led by Abdul Ali Mazari, and Shura-e-Nizar, led by Ahmad Shah Masoud, but most of the time it was controlled by Hezb-e-Wahdat. According to the guardians of zoo, on their first days of arrival, the militias of this hated party killed most the birds and deer to eat them, and even raped female mammals. Aka Akbar, a guardian, spending day and night in the zoo whose dead body was later found in the river bed during period of Taliban, had told one of his friend, he was feeling as if the crimes are committed against his children. Most of the zoo was destroyed due to missile strikes. Aka Akbar had added, they had no pain-killer to inject their wounded animals, suffering a painful death. In these bloodied years, a few animals including Marjan survived.
Most people consider Marjan injured face as the harsh reality of Afghan people.
However, fall 1993 proved lethal for Marjan and Chucha. The visitor and militiamen had gathering around the lions’ enclave. A militia, with long dirty hairs from Hezb-e-Wahdat residing in the nearby military post, wanted to show his manhood and bravery to his fellow militants, enters the enclave and touched Chucha, the lioness. Chucha stays quiet, but Marjan, the male lion, attacks the militia, tearing him within few seconds. It is the nature of male lions to defend their pride and territory.
Every one leaves, but on its next day, the brother of the killed militia front another front of Hezb-e-Wahdat, throws a hand grenade to Marjan’s enclave. Marjan mistakes the grenade with food and jumps towards it. It explodes and Marjan’s face badly injures. Swen Conrad, a photojournalist who is also in the zoo, hands over his camera to a watcher by to take pictures, and rushes along with zoo guardians to provide first aid assistance to Marjan. A few photos are available from this incident.
Later, Marjan was treated by MSF and International Doctors surgeons, who had remove one of his eyes and some teeth to stop the spread of infection, but they couldn’t remove a grenade fragment from his head, resulting lose one eye, a part his mouth and hearing. However, he survived to continue to with miserable life. He was not able to eat bone till the end.
After the Taliban took over Kabul, a herd of Taliban militia attacked Marjan, stoning him. Once again, he survived when a guardian told to Taliban commander not to kill Marjan because Islam’s prophet liked animals.
Finally, Marjan died of liver and kidney failure, leaving behind the hard days, and on 28 August 2002, he was buried in Kabul Zoo in presence of hundreds of mourners. A sign on his grave reads, “Marjan, 23, the most famous lion of the world.”
His bronze sculpture is erected at the entrance gate of the zoo.
John Walsh of the World Society for the Protection of Animals, said about Marjan, "Old, ailing, but proud, like Afghanistan."
A short report of BBC from the Marjan’s last hours of life: