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As the situation in Afghanistan becomes increasingly hostile and the deadline to evacuate draws closer, the internet is obsessed with the plight of one brave ex-military man in Kabul, who has refused to leave his animal shelter behind.
Pen Farthing, who is the founder of the Nowzad animal shelter near Afghanistan's capital has been pushing for his staff and as many animals as possible to be safely evacuated.
Here's the latest on Pen Farthing in Afghanistan.
Paul 'Pen' Farthing, 52, is an ex-Royal Marine commando who set up the Nowzad animal shelter near Kabul after serving in the military there in 2006.
While out on duty in 2006, Pen helped to break up a fight between two stray dogs in the town of Nawzad. Following this, one of the dogs followed Pen around for the next six months and he named him Nowzad, after the town he was found in.
Following his deployment, Pen sought to bring Nowzad home to the UK with him, which is when he got inspired to establish the Afghan animal welfare charity, Nowzad.
Pen is also the author of three books based on this experience: One Dog at a Time: Saving the Strays of Helmand - An Inspiring True Story (2009), No Place Like Home: A New Beginning with the Dogs of Afghanistan (2010), and Wylie: The Brave Street Dog Who Never Gave Up (2014).
The idea behind Nowzad shelter is to reunite service men and women with the dogs and cats that befriended them on the streets of Afghanistan.
The charity also rescues strays and works to humanely control Kabul's stray cat and dog population.
Pen is married to a woman called Kaisa Helene. Not much is known about her as she keeps a low profile on social media. But according to Pen's Instagram, the two got married in May this year in Afghanistan.
It's not clear whether his wife is currently with him in Afghanistan or is at home in the UK.
On 12th August, Pen posted a heartfelt photo of him and his wife on Instagram, saying: "Have never been as worried & frightened about the future as I am now with what is happening in Afghanistan. But one constant who is truly my soul mate that I should have found many many years ago is @kaisahelene She is definitely the light in the coming darkness. Thank you."
Since the collapse of the Afghan government in August 2021, Farthing has been trying to get 200 cats and dogs evacuated alongside his staff and their families.
Throughout the Taliban takeover, Pen has refused to evacuate the country alone, fearing for the lives of his Afghan staff and the animals if he leaves their side.
But as the deadline to evacuate Afghanistan is drawing closer and the Taliban are already making it harder to get through to the airport, Pen has been forced to make some tough decisions.
Pen has now instigated 'Operation Ark' (named after Noah's Ark), which is his mission to get the animals and staff of Nowzad out of Afghanistan.
On 26th August, Pen made the treacherous journey to Kabul airport with his staff, their families and some 140 dogs and 60 cats, having been given the go-ahead to evacuate safely and chartered a plane to transport them out of the country.
But a policy change made by Joe Biden just two hours before they reached Kabul airport means they're now stuck there, having been turned away by the US military who are in charge of the evacuations.
"The US control the airport (internally) so it trumped the British paperwork we had," Pen explained.
On 26th August, Pen tweeted:
"The whole team & dogs/cats were safely 300m inside the airport perimeter. We were turned away as @JoeBiden @POTUS had changed paperwork rules just 2 hours earlier. Went through hell to get there & we were turned away into the chaos of those devastating explosions. #OperationArk."
Shortly before that, he tweeted the Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen and pleaded for safe passage out of the country after they were blocked from entering the airport by the Taliban:
"Dear Sir; my team & my animals are stuck at airport circle. We have a flight waiting. Can you please facilitate safe passage into the airport for our convoy? @suhailshaheen1 We are an NGO who will come back to Afghanistan but right now I want to get everyone out safely."
Thousands are behind Pen and his team and are helping to put pressure on governments to facilitate the safe passage out of the war-torn country.
"I'm gutted for you. Is there any way you can all get out? What can we do?" Asked one concerned follower.
"My heart is so heavy reading this Pen. I have absolutely no idea what you all must be feeling. Sending love and best wishes to you all," said another, whose sentiment is being shared by thousands more commenting on Pen's tweets and offering their assistance.
Featured Image Credit: Instagram/@penfarthing
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