In the months before and after 9/11, the American media
treated its consumers to plenty of stories about how the Taliban mistreated
the people of Afghanistan. But after the liberation of Kabul, stories
about how the Taliban mistreated lions, bears and monkeys began to surface.
The Kabul Zoo became the focus of hundreds of media reports
abound with tales of abused critters. Once a proud menagerie. Most of
the animals died of neglect or starvation under the Taliban, and many
more were eaten. The Chicago Tribune went to far as to feature an online
photo essay of the poor animals, including one of a monkey being fed
But perhaps no animal since Dolly the cloned wonder-sheep
got as much press as Marjan, an elderly lion in the zoo. The once proud
beast looked sad and pathetic, reduced to a one-eyed ghost.
Marjan had been a gift to Afghanistan from Germany in
the 1960s, but when the zoo became a soldiers' retreat under the
Taliban, Marjan stopped getting the meat he needed to live. One day
a Taliban soldier climbed into his cage to prove his valor, and Marjan
finally got a meal. The soldier's brother showed up the next day
and threw the lion a live grenade, blinding the animal.
Marjan died in late January, and his obituary was one
of the most prominent of the whole war. Russian daily Pravda declared
Marjan "a symbol of the country's suffering." USA Today
said he "suffered the torments of war and won countless hearts
Just before he passed on, animal lovers around the globe
had raised more than $400,000 for improvements to Marjan's cage,
a ramp and a mattress that could withstand his mighty claws. Britain's
The Independent noted the irony in its headline: "Aid floods in
for Marjan the lion but Karzai's government has no money to help
fashion sense hailed despite aborted sheep hat
As Hamid Karzai emerged from the wreckage of post-Taliban Afghanistan
as the "interim leader," the media began noticing just what
a great-looking guy he was. Bearing a noticeable resemblance to Ben
Kingsley, Karzai also wowed the fashion press with his sense of style.
Los Angeles Times fashion writer Booth Moore observed that Karzai's
elegant ensembles are themselves a statement of unity in a country dominated
by ethnic divisions. His outfits are a mélange of Afghani tribal
styles, cherry-picking the best of the Turkish, Uzbeki and Pashtun offerings.
Even the Tokyo press picked up on Karzai's dress, running a picture
of him next to one of a model showing off a Gucci cape similar to Karzai's
chapan. During Milan's fashion week, Gucci's Tom Ford called
Karzai "the chicest man on the planet."
But Afghanistan is not Milan. In a country where the national sport,
buzkashi, is essentially polo played with a beheaded goat or calf carcass
instead of a ball, something was bound to be offensive to western sensibilities.
The Associated Press found it April 24. The wire service reported that
Karzai's karacul, the gray fez-like hat that adorns Karzai's
influential pate (and those of the throngs who imitated him), is made
out of the fur of an aborted lamb fetus. To acquire the fur, a shepherd
must slaughter a pregnant lamb and remove the fetus.
The lack of exposure to light or air keeps the fur especially downy.
Back to Magazine contents