Nowzad needs a miracle
When I opened the shutters this morning this was the scene. The only sound in the air was early birdsong. Every day I know I am lucky to have this peaceful life. And never more has this been in my head than today as I absorb the news from across the world in Afghanistan.
World affairs always interest me. I was raised in a household where politics were regularly talked about, argued over and debated. I choose not to publicly do it in my writing, or on social media but today world politics comes to my blog.
The situation in Afghanistan brings it to the surface here as I am horrified not only by the humanitarian impact, but for one particular animal rescue shelter. Nowzad was founded in 2007 by former Royal Marine Pen Farthing who was serving in Afghanistan. Pen and his Nowzad team at the clinic and shelter in Kabul are now caught up in this catastrophe.
In a heartbreaking live broadcast last night from the shelter Pen pleaded for help to get his team, and the animals that they can, out to safety.
There is a plan. It is possible to do it. Money to fund the cargo plane is coming in from donations made by many people who care.
The situation however is fast changing and even for them to get to the airport now seems in doubt.
Twitter updates coming today show a truly desperate situation. But there is hope. Pressure on MPs, on the media to cover Pen’s situation, it’s all needed and gives some hope they might get onto the UK rescue list and be able to leave as a team.
I met Pen in 2014 when we shared a stage at Whitstable Literary Festival. Susie-Belle sat on my lap, keeping a close eye on Nowzad – the dog who started it all for Pen – who lay peacefully at Pen’s feet. Nowzad had known a lifetime of horrific abuse before Pen arrived in his world.
Pen’s talk was inspirational, his courage and vision clear. He was working every day for a better future for animals in the most demanding conditions that I could imagine. I definitely had imposter syndrome sat alongside such a truly heroic man. And that was then when things were going well for Nowzad and not too badly for the country.
Today his real heroism stands bold for all to see – he could have left Kabul, he has a British passport – but he has chosen not to leave his staff or the animals. In last night’s broadcast his love and respect for them were unquestionably one of the toughest things I’ve seen on social media for a long time. While gunfire could be heard outside he spoke bravely and eloquently, through choked back tears, why he was staying until they can all get out safely.
CNN named him their Hero of the Year in 2014 – he certainly is that.
Many hundreds of Afghan veterinary interns have gone through the Nowzad shelter and clinic in recent years. I cannot imagine the depth of despair Pen must feel to see his work and the future of all those interns and animals now so uncertain. The Taliban when last in power did not allow pet ownership, there’s no reason to believe they will now. The ideology placed little value on the lives of humans, let alone animals.
To say the future is bleak feels inadequate.
To help the imeediate crisis, the team are asking for tweets, emails, social media messages, phone calls to be made to British MPs including the Prime Minister Boris Johnson.
Read here about the education side of Nowzad’s work and the exceptional support of veterinary services in a country where it has always been desperately needed.