Afghan refugee's joy at being reunited with pet bird in Abu Dhabi

French embassy flew Alia, 18, to the UAE so she could meet the myna she brought from Afghanistan

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An Afghan refugee was overjoyed when she was reunited in the UAE with her pet myna bird, after more than a year apart.

Alia, 18, whose name was changed to protect her family, had fled to Abu Dhabi in August 2021, after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan.

She brought pet myna Juji with her on the evacuation flight to the UAE but was forced to leave the bird behind when she moved to France with her family.

But Juji found a new home when Xavier Chatel, France's ambassador to the UAE, adopted the bird.

I am happy he is safe and has a home. I thank the French ambassador for everything he did for me and my bird
Afghan refugee Alia

After more than a year apart, the French embassy flew Alia to Abu Dhabi for two days to reunite her with her pet.

Alia finally met Juji again on Wednesday evening at Mr Chatel's residence.

“I am so happy. I can’t believe I see him finally,” Alia told The National.

“I missed him so much. I missed him every day.

“But I am happy he is safe and has a home. I thank the French ambassador for everything he did for me and my bird.”

Alia said Juji instantly recognised her and started squawking and pecking when she put her face close to the cage and whispered, “Juji, Juji.”

“He did not forget me. I think he is happy,” she said.

Mr Chatel, whose tenure in the UAE has come to an end, first shared the story on Twitter last year and said the myna — a type of bird renowned for its mimicry skills — has become a mascot of the embassy and even learnt to say ‘bonjour!’

He said Alia was invited to Abu Dhabi so that she could see her pet bird was well and being looked after.

“She missed Juji so much. I kept sending her videos of the bird but I wanted her to reunite with the bird before I leave Abu Dhabi,” Mr Chatel said.

“I wanted to reassure her that even when if I am not going to be here, the bird will be treated well.”

He said Alia had to visit Abu Dhabi because Juji cannot be taken to France.

“I tried many times, but the bird is considered an invasive species in France and cannot go there under any circumstances. Now, this is home for Juji,” he said.

Recollecting on the harrowing experience of leaving Kabul, Alia said it was the “most depressing day” of her life.

“Sometimes, I think about it. And I get scared. Depressed. I feel sad,” she said.

She said she somehow managed to sneak the bird on to the flight amid the chaos at Kabul International Airport, where thousands of people were trying to flee the Taliban.

“I held on to him all the time. There was no way I was going to leave him in Kabul. He is my baby,” she said.

“Some day, I hope I can go back to Afghanistan and take Juji with me too.”

Alia said she is learning French and plans to go to university.

“France is good, it's safe but I miss my home,” she said.

“I feel sad for my country, for all the women. I want them to have freedom. It is the best thing for everyone.”

Updated: October 06, 2022, 2:42 PM