Ex-Marine urges Government to help animal rights charity’s staff leave Kabul

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The founder of an animal rights charity in Afghanistan has urged the British Government to help withdraw his staff from Kabul.

Pen Farthing, a former Royal Marine Commando and founder of the Nowzad charity, is campaigning for the Government to have 71 people flown to the UK from Afghanistan after the Taliban seized the capital city.

Mr Farthing is currently in Afghanistan with his staff and has said he is determined not to leave the country without them.

Becoming visibly emotional while describing the current situation in the city, he told ITV’s Good Morning Britain: “We have no idea what’s coming next in the next few days, I’m just trying to hold it together.

“Without a doubt, there has been a complete waste over the loss of life for the last 20 years. What is happening in Afghanistan today is an absolute travesty. The US and the UK are now giving the world a masterclass in how to completely ruin a country and create a humanitarian crisis.”

He added: “I need to get my staff out. There’s been absolutely no communication from anybody in the Foreign Office (about) my Afghan staff, who are now in the most desperate position. They need to be taken out of Afghanistan. They have got to leave because of what we have done to this country. They are in danger.”

The charity has launched a campaign called Operation Ark to fundraise £200,000 to help evacuate Mr Farthing’s staff, their dependants and the charity’s animals out of the country.

Supporters in Britain are also working to try to help Mr Farthing and his team depart safely from Afghanistan.

A drive, called “Rescue the Animal Rescuers”, is calling for the Government to help the Nowzad workers and a second animal welfare charity in Kabul called the Mayhew.

Dominic Dyer, a leading animal welfare campaigner and writer who helped start the Rescue the Animal Rescuers campaign, said: “Over the last decade through the incredible work of Nowzad and the Mayhew a new generation of Afghan men and women have been educated and empowered to bring about a significant improvement in animal welfare in Afghanistan.

“We cannot leave these brave and compassionate people behind to face violent reprisals, rape or murder at the hands of the Taliban, as a nation of animal lovers we must step up and rescue the animal rescuers.”

It has been supported by Downton Abbey and Unforgotten actor Peter Egan, who posted a video plea to his supporters on Twitter to contact their local MPs, the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary to help the charities.

Comedian Ricky Gervais and actress Dame Judi Dench are also backing the campaigns.

Mr Gervais said: “Pen Farthing and his team Nowzad have done amazing work for over a decade in Kabul, they have saved thousands of dogs and provided work for the local community and instigated educational programmes which have benefited their community. Their lives are now in danger. They need our help now.”

Dame Judi added: “So much constructive work will be destroyed. Pen Farthing and his team at Nowzad have achieved so much in terms of animal welfare and educational work benefiting the local community, particularly for the women Nowzad has sponsored to become qualified vets. All of their lives are now threatened by the Taliban.”

Mr Farthing launched Nowzad in 2006 after adopting a stray dog while serving in Helmand province.

The charity has a dog shelter which looked after nearly 140 dogs and a cat shelter with more than 40 cats.

A team of 24 Afghan nationals treat and look after the animals.

The Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office has been contacted for comment.

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