Former UK Marine & Founder of animal rescue charity Nowzad in desperate bid to secure safe passage from Afghanistan
I don’t think there will be many people unaware of the desperate plight of the Afghan people. Some of you will also be aware of the plight of former UK Marine Pen Farthing, his team and the animals at the Nowzad charity in Kabul, from whom my husband and I adopted a street dog back in 2017.
With only days to go until the last planes leave Kabul Airport, I feel I have to speak out. Because I know I will regret not doing it, as even a few more people raising awareness can make a huge difference. So if you can find it in your heart to help raise awareness of all of those who desperately need safe passage to Kabul Airport and out of Afghanistan, please do it.
Along with the 1000s of Nowzad supporters around the world, I’ve been lobbying the government and others constantly since Sunday to try and help raise awareness about the humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, because what’s happening there is so much more than a ‘messy’ exit.
Paul ‘Pen’ Farthing is a former UK Marine who founded the Nowzad charity after rescuing a few dogs himself. He and his fellow Marines were befriended by the local street dogs during their various tours of duty in Afghanistan. For the past 14 years, Pen has devoted his life to helping the strays of Afghanistan who are only on the streets in the first place because the Taliban banned pet ownership when they were previously in power.
The latest update is that the Foreign Office are now processing visa applications for Nowzad team and their dependents. A massive step forward but a long way to go until people & animals have safe passage to and into Kabul Airport. Some of the planes are leaving empty, which is scandalous whilst 1000s wait outside being crushed as they cannot get in. Sadly people will be left behind when this mission is over. So now I’m focussing on raising awareness about that. And also tweeting, etc. about the other animal rescue charities out there including War Paws & Kabul Small Animal Rescue. Not only are they dealing with trying to get their own animals out but also the poor abandoned pets of those people who’ve managed to flee the country.
Nowzad have invested millions from donors to set up veterinary clinics and animal care centres and to train a new generation of Afghan men and women to become qualified vets and vet nurses, which has led to a significant improvement in animal welfare in Afghanistan. Their work includes neutering the street dogs, putting in place rabies control programmes, caring for working animals and rehoming rescue dogs and cats, mainly in the UK and the US. They also trained the first female vets in Afghanistan and work tirelessly in outreach with local children, all in the most dangerous of conditions. But in a few days time, everything Pen Farthing and his team have done will be obliterated, including the new clinic which has been open for just 5 days.
Pen currently has around 140 dogs at the shelter, but can only rescue 98 dogs/88 cats. The rest of them will tragically need to be put to sleep or released back out on the streets of Kabul to face God only knows what. Nowzad usually have around 100 at the shelter but have faced the perfect storm of the pandemic and the US temporary suspension for dogs imported from high-risk countries for dog rabies. Despite the fact that all Nowzad dogs are fully vaccinated and rabies free.
The Foreign Office is now processing visas for Pen and his team of 25 and their immediate families (including children and elderly parents, so 71 in total), which is tremendous progress. And the $200,000 needed for the cargo plane to get 98 dogs and 88 cats at Nowzad out of Afghanistan has now been raised (‘Operation Ark’) by Nowzad’s wonderful team in the UK. However, the challenge remains getting safely to and then into Kabul Airport.
This morning, Pen was paid a visit by the Taliban who have moved into the compound next to the Nowzad clinic. In his own words,
“Well I can definitely say my heart’s still going, that’s for sure. They turned up just now, we have a security camera outside, we’ve always had one. There’s probably about 10, 15 of them, a couple of cars they’re on walkie-talkies. We’ve made our procedure for when they come in, we have that ready. It’s just going to be myself and my office manager, we’re going to greet them, because they have promised that NGOs will obviously be left alone. So literally that is our only defence…”
Pen and the Nowzad team remain in a frightening and hellish situation as things become more and more dangerous. Even while the Taliban have literally moved into the neighbouring compound and turned up at the Nowzad clinic this morning, Pen will not leave until he knows his team and animals can get out.
You can hear more about the situation in this interview with Pen on UK breakfast TV this morning.