A Royal Marine veteran who owns an animal sanctuary in Kabul says he’s not leaving the capital despite the deteriorating situation following the takeover of the Taliban.
Like everyone in Afghanistan right now, Paul “Pen” Farthing is afraid for his safety, but he’s not willing to leave his staff and the animals under their care behind.
Farthing founded Nowzad charity in 2007, and he is now in a desperate race to get himself and his Afghan employees and over 200 rescue animals to Britain.
He is calling upon UK ministers to “do the right thing” and fly 71 people to the UK after the Islamic extremist group seized Kabul.
“I need to get them out of here,” he told the i. “I’m not leaving them behind. I’m terrified, everybody is absolutely terrified of what the future holds.”
“My staff don’t deserve the fate that awaits them if they stay here in Afghanistan,” he said.
According to the Foreign Office, they have been in contact with Farthing to offer help.
In what he has named “Operation Ark,” Farthing is trying to raise $200,000 to charter a cargo plane to the UK within the next couple of days and cover expenses on arrival.
If his animals—which include 140 dogs, 60 cats, 12 donkeys, 2 horses, 1 goat, and 1 cow—can’t be evacuated, they would have to fight for survival on the streets of Kabul.
Worse, Farthing is afraid he won’t have enough room to take all of the 140 dogs under his care. Unfortunately, he will be forced to put more than half of them down.
“We will have to say goodbye. There’s no other option sadly. I have 140 dogs and only 65 spaces. I’ll have to put down some of the older, injured dogs,” he said. “I’ve felt angry over the last few days and now I just feel numb. I don’t have the words any more. But the day I have to put the dogs down is when all the anger will come back.”
It has been total chaos in Kabul since the Taliban took over. Heartbreaking images showed locals hanging on for dear life to the side of a moving US military plane leaving the airport. Everyone is desperate to flee the country.
Farthing arrived in the town of Now Zad in November 2006 as part of the Kilo Company of 42 Commando Royal Marines. Their mission then was to provide stability for the locals.
After breaking up an organized dog fight outside their compound, one of the pups followed him. The pair spent the next six months together, and Farthing named his new four-legged friend Nowzad. At the end of his deployment, he brought him back home to Devon to start a new life.
This move inspired Farthing to reunite other servicemen and women with dogs and catsthey had bonded with while serving, and that’s when he founded the charity Nowzad.
So far, Nowzad has helped and rehomed over 1,700 animals. The organization has also trained more than 500 veterinary students in Kabul over the years, including Afghanistan’s first fully qualified female vets.
Farthing and his wife, Kaisa Markhus, had been going back and forth between their home in Exeter and Afghanistan. They were stuck in the country early last year when the pandemic started.
“We’ve just spent $35,000 on a new extension to our clinic and this had only been open five days,” he said. “It’s all over. Everything we’d achieved over 15 years is up in smoke.”
Celebrities including actor Peter Egan and comedian Ricky Gervais have pledged to support Operation Ark.