A former Royal Marine Commando who runs an animal rights charity in Afghanistan revealed today that he has lost contact with his wife and pregnant manager after they were crushed in a stampede at Kabul Airport.
Pen Farthing, who is founder of the Nowzad charity which is backed by celebrities including Ricky Gervais and Judi Dench, said he would hold Boris Johnson ‘personally responsible’ if his wife or staff members were injured.
Mr Farthing, who set up the organisation after befriending a stray dog while serving in Helmand in 2006, is urging the UK Government to fly 71 people linked to the charity from Afghanistan to Britain after the Taliban seized Kabul.
The 52-year-old, who wife is a Norwegian named Kaisa Helene, said the charity was working on plans to evacuate 100 cats and 100 dogs on a charter plane along with his team and their dependants which could cost £200,000.
But he said some of the older and injured dogs at the shelter are ‘going to have to be put to sleep’ because there is ‘no other option’ – and pointed out that the Taliban banned dog ownership when they were last in power.
Mr Farthing, who is currently in Afghanistan with his staff and has said he is determined not to leave the country without them, said in a Facebook video today: ‘We’re working on plans for those (the animals) – they are all still fine. The Taliban have actually moved next door though, but they haven’t come to see us yet.’
And he tweeted today: ‘My wife is at the north gate of Kabul Airport being crushed in the stampede to get with my 34 week pregnant country manager. The UK military will not come out to rescue them. Boris Johnson, Dominic Raab – anything happens, I will hold you personally responsible.’
Former Royal Marine Commando Pen Farthing works with his Norwegian wife Kaisa Helene (above) and their team in Kabul
Pen Farthing is founder of the Nowzad charity which he set up after befriending a stray dog while serving in Helmand in 2006
Mr Farthing said in a Facebook video today: ‘The Taliban have actually moved next door, but they haven’t come to see us yet’
Mr Farthing told Sky News: ‘My wife and my country manager who is 34 weeks pregnant, they were told by the evacuation team that they needed to get to Kabul Airport within the next hour to get their evacuation flights out.
‘There is no security on the outside of Kabul Airport. They got caught in a crush, in a stampede, this is a 34-week pregnant woman and my wife, getting caught in a stampede. They were at the gate of Kabul Airport on the side they’d been told to go. I was in comms with the Quick Reaction Force on the other side of the gate.
Dame Judi Dench praises Pen Farthing as she warns ‘so much constructive work will be destroyed’
Dame Judi Dench loves animals so much she once gave her ailing pet goldfish mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
So it has caused great heartache for the 86-year-old national treasure that women who were trained as vets for a British-run animal charity in Afghanistan are marooned out there and at risk of death.
She’s desperately worried about those working for Nowzad and is lobbying the Prime Minister to issue visas for the Afghan animal aid workers.
‘So much constructive work will be destroyed,’ she tells me. ‘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.’
‘British and Americans. And as a Royal Marine Commando, I am absolutely furious with these soldiers because they refused to go out of that camp to rescue those people to get them inside the safety of Kabul Airfield.
‘Boris Johnson and all of the senior staff of this government need to know what a complete cluster they are making of this withdrawal from Afghanistan. People are going to die. Outside it is not secure.’
He added: ‘And if the British military are there and they will not get outside and rescue some of the people that they’ve been sent to get out of Kabul safely, then what is the point in them being here?’
Mr Farthing said the British and Americans – ‘especially’ US President Joe Biden – had created ‘undue panic and stress’ with the withdrawal from Afghanistan and ‘nothing is going to be achieved’.
He continued: ‘There are still thousands of Afghans trying to fight to get into an airfield, to get on an aeroplane to escape the mess he made. At the moment I don’t know where my wife is.
‘They managed to pull out my country manager to get her out of the crush along with her one-and-a-half-year-old son. And they are now trying to make their way back to another secure location near to Kabul airfield.
‘And I’m being told by the authorities that they have to come into this secure location by the British military again. Somebody needs to get a grip. If they are injured or hurt, I will personally hold Boris Johnson and the whole of this government to account. This is not acceptable.’
Mr Farthing said: ‘Of course they airlifted the embassy staff. That airport is not secure. I am getting fed up of the politicians trying to convince the world they’ve got a handle on this. They do not.
‘This is a masterclass, an absolute masterclass in how to do everything wrong in a withdrawal from a country that we have completely messed up.
‘We cannot get to Kabul Airport. Outside of that perimeter, the Taliban now control everything. There are thousands, thousands of desperate Afghans who are trying to get into an airport.
‘And in between you’ve got the State Department or you’ve got the Foreign Office saying ‘please make your way to the airport and when you get here, then you can get a flight out’.
Mr Farthing said staff at the charity were working on plans to evacuate 100 cats and 100 dogs on a £200,000 charter plane
The former Royal Marine Commando runs an animal rights charity in Afghanistan and is now trying to evacuate dogs and cats
Mr Farthing with dogs RPG and Jena, who were destined to die from starvation or dog fights in Afghanistan until he stepped in
‘Well, we can’t get to the airport, Boris Johnson, and when we do, the soldiers you sent refuse to open the gate and let expats who had been told to be there – and one of them, a 34-week pregnant woman with a one-and-a-half-year-old child, they left them in a crush.
‘I am beyond furious. This government, along with Joe Biden, have created an absolutely unimaginable horror show of a withdrawal from Afghanistan, and somebody is going to die because there is no control outside of that airport.
‘Seething needs to be done. They call a Cobra meeting, they call whatever – but they need to get people to control this situation. I’m desperate because I need to know where my wife is, where my country manager is, where her son is. This is unacceptable.’
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.
Taliban soldiers at the entrance of Afghanistan’s international airport in Kabul today. UK military chiefs admit that the new regime now has total control of access to the airport
British citizens and dual nationals residing in Afghanistan get on an RAF plane at Kabul Airport before being relocated to the UK, in this photograph from Sunday released by the Ministry of Defence today. Three MoD flights have taken off today
People gather outside Kabul Airport today as the Taliban declared an ‘amnesty’ and urged women to join their government
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.
Afghanis, some clutching migration documents, line up behind barbed wire and under the guns of Afghan security guards at Kabul’s main airport today, one day after deadly chaos gripped the main airport as desperate crowds tried to flee the country
British soldiers help Afghan citizens to board a Hercules transport plane at Kabul Airport in this photo from Sunday. At least 12 military flights took off from Kabul today, including three UK planes with the MoD hoping they can get out 7,000 people
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.