Thank you to everyone who donated and yelled from the rooftops to ensure that the Nowzad staff and our animals could be evacuated from Kabul last August, when the west literally abandoned Afghanistan and gave power back to a regime so many had sacrificed so much to keep at bay over the last 20 years.
Your determination and generosity saved lives.
Sat inside our compound in Kabul, knowing the Taliban were entering the city limits around us was just so surreal. We had no idea what to expect. I don’t lie when I say that the thought of being dragged out into the streets and executed as a former soldier crossed my mind several times.
Thankfully, my former training and your many, many messages of support kept me focussed on one thing only; evacuating our people and animals. Seeing the fear in the faces of our young female Afghanistan staff as the Taliban retook Kabul, told me what we had to do with your help.
Operation Ark demonstrated what is possible against all odds.
94 dogs, 68 cats and 67 of our Afghan team and their immediate families were safely evacuated to the United Kingdom. Even better though, I can report that the number of people who have got a new and safe life with future opportunities, free from oppression, has now become 70, as we have had three new additions to our Afghan family who have been born British.
Our former staff are settling into their new lives with enthusiasm and determination to bring a positive impact to UK society. The veterinarians are being retrained to qualify as UK vets which requires many hours of study, whilst the team’s children have started school and they love it!
Soon they will be leaving the resettlement hotel to start new lives across the length of the UK – we truly wish them all the best of luck with their new and safe lives!
Sadly though, this newsletter to thank you all, is extremely late in being written as it has taken me a long time to come to terms with everything since August. The fallout caused by Operation Ark is still, to this day in April (some eight months later), being played out in the British media and halls of Westminster. Just a few weeks ago, another whistle-blower has come forward to add fuel to fire and bring back the debate of ‘pets over people’. But NOT one media outlet has published the true facts; we rescued our animals in an aircraft that you paid for, which arrived after the last British evacuee had flown from Kabul. No British soldiers facilitated my entry to Kabul airport – none of them came outside the airport to escort dogs through the crowds – we did that on our own, at gunpoint, through 3 different Taliban checkpoints.
Yet, there are still reports that ‘Pen Farthing’s rescue of pets caused the deaths of over 300 people that were then subsequently left behind’.
There were over 229 spare seats on that aircraft that could have taken extra evacuees, but the British government declined the seats. (The government still managed to rescue a car and bring it back to England though). When my wife Kaisa was evacuated through Kabul airport several days before me, her flight was close to empty.
The press should have been celebrating what was achieved during Operation Ark. Yet the hard work and determination of the Nowzad team to make a considerable impact for improving the quality of care for injured animals, providing free rabies vaccinations and awareness education in schools, caring for the overworked donkeys and horses on the streets of Kabul over the last 14 years, was lost as Nowzad’s name is still being used as a political football to deflect from the failings of the British withdrawal from Afghanistan. What we have done to Afghanistan as a country is beyond heart-breaking and disgraceful. We gave hope to so many and then just tore it from them without any warning.
Operation Ark was a success and our former staff are adapting to life in the UK with intensive English language lessons and skills training for future work.
The dogs and cats have now all mostly been rehomed. Just a few remain.
During the 7-long months of continuous media battles in the UK that alone kept us up all hours with the stress of the lies and accusations, we simultaneously kept taking small but important steps to restart our services in Kabul.
In Afghanistan family is more important than anything, and a few of our staff had family to care for that could not leave the country. Dr Reshad was one who stayed and who took on the difficult job of navigating the continuation of our Nowzad clinic through this unfamiliar world of rule and restrictions under a new regime.
Finally, we began to gain the knowledge of how we could manage to reopen our clinic. Despite the extremely sad fact that we left Afghanistan in the hands of a regime who does not support either human or female rights, your support has made it possible for us to know that we had the stability to keep the clinic rent paid whilst paying the few but determined and passionate staff who decided not to leave Afghanistan.
Now, 7 months later, clients in Kabul are coming back as the word on the street spreads that the Nowzad clinic is open again! YES!
There is an official documentary being made about the events of Operation Ark that we as a charity, have agreed to take part in – more news on the ‘when and where’ in our next newsletter and of course, there will be a fourth book. Just need to write it and have it published. More details in our next newsletter I hope.
The plan for this newsletter was going to be a celebration of what Nowzad had achieved so far in Afghanistan, and how all of this would open up new paths. But sadly, with the horrific and devastating events unfolding in eastern Europe with the illegal Russian invasion of Ukraine, we decided that this was a cause we had to get involved with, and so all our efforts are being used to facilitate Nowzad’s humanitarian response.
I have kept this update intentionally short so we can get it out to you now rather than later, so you know that Nowzad is still very much an active charity. We are just expanding!
Your continued messages of support and love are beyond amazing! I am sorry that I have not managed to respond to you to all your individual messages. There has just been so many of them!
They really have got me through some dark days. Thank you. Your compassion and kindness is not something I will ever forget.
Pen F April 2022