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A Shameful Silence

Hi dear Owen,

Yes, it is true sadly. We are appalled, confused, and in a dire situation. It is so difficult for me as I have my grandmother, who is physically weak, with me. These days it has got so hard to find a person honest and true, and one who won't break their promises and one who won't turn their back on you My God. These last couple of months have been so frustrating and I am fully exhausted with what I have been through.

On September 17th, the 58 Operation Magic Carpet refugees who remain in Pakistan learned that the last of their rescuers is officially withdrawing its support, as World Trade Center Gibraltar, which assisted in the evacuation of the refugees from Afghanistan to Pakistan last year, has apparently exhausted its funds and fundraising avenues.

WTCG had become involved in Operation Magic Carpet to evacuate eleven of its own staff, and its management worked valiantly to secure funding for the other evacuees even after its own staff were safe. But according to sources both within the refugee community and inside the effort to rescue them, that money tap has gone dry, leaving nearly sixty human beings, including one sick baby, completely unsupported and adrift.

If you've been following this story, you'll know that Operation Magic Carpet was the brainchild of British animal rights activist Dominic Dyer, and a veterinarian from the UK who has remained publicly anonymous.

The mission saw the evacuation of a group of Afghan veterinarians and their families, the majority of whom had worked with the UK's Mayhew International, and who'd become targets of Taliban persecution after the fall of Kabul in mid-2021.

Of the evacuees, roughly one-third were women and one-third children. Many of the evacuees face persecution on three fronts: for working with a western organization like Mayhew; for being women; and for being Hazara, an ethnic minority that has faced literally centuries of ethnic cleansing and genocide in the region.

In addition to the human evacuees, a number of dogs and cats were also brought into Pakistan. At least four dogs and one cat remain with the refugee families, though with resources dwindling, the situation has become dire for both humans and animals alike.

"Rambo is going hungry and we have nothing to feed him. My sister found some money to get dog food, but at the same time my siblings are hungry too. It's horrible to have to choose between your pet and your family."

Dominic Dyer and his team attracted reams of flattering media coverage for their efforts, which saw the evacuees smuggled out of Afghanistan and into Pakistan illegally, without proper visas, passports, or necessary paperwork to travel or find work.

In numerous media articles, Dyer and his colleagues made it clear that their mission was to keep the evacuees safe in Pakistan until arrangements could be made to move all 92 refugees to new lives in other, more secure parts of the world.

But in early August, Dyer informed the remaining refugees via a Zoom video call that his team would no longer be able to support anyone, and that every family would be on its own as of the end of September.

From what I understand, World Trade Center Gibraltar made efforts to pick up Dyer's slack. But now they, too, have bowed out of the mission, and this leaves at least 58 refugees on the brink of homelessness and starvation.

Despite the early media attention at the outset of Operation Magic Carpet, Dyer and the media have been silent about the fate of the refugees now that the operation has failed.

Shortly after my last post, Dyer reactivated and then quickly deleted a GoFundMe page that he'd apparently created in April.

In the fundraiser, which seeks £500,000, he writes: "This is a crowdfunding appeal to help fund the ongoing costs of maintaining 92 women, children, and men with their dogs and cats that were evacuated from Afghanistan to Pakistan.

"Funds are needed to meet the monthly accommodation, food, utilities, medical bills, and animal care costs in Pakistan while we continue to work hard to bring them to safety in a third country.

"Additionally, funds are needed to help them settle in their new country.

"At this time, we do not have a definite timeline. We are exploring several options in the UK and Canada. While we are doing everything we can to bring our group to safety, we are aware it could take up to 24 months before we can get them out of Pakistan [emphasis mine].

"All 92 evacuees put their faith and trust in a group of complete strangers living thousands of miles away, people they have never met. Fearing for their lives, in a country on the brink of disintegration, they packed a single bag each, left their homes and everything they knew behind them and went into hiding."

It's unclear what prompted Dyer to (very briefly) reactivate this GoFundMe and then almost immediately take it down. What is clear is that the Operation Magic Carpet organizers knew in April that they were in this for the long haul. But by August, they'd apparently given up.

Dyer hasn't publicly acknowledged the failure of Operation Magic Carpet, or the dire circumstances those evacuees who put their faith and trust in him now find themselves facing. Numerous animal rights and humanitarian supporters have attempted to contact him with questions about OMC via Twitter and have found themselves unceremoniously blocked.

According to reports from within the organizations now frantically trying to raise funds for the abandoned refugees, Dyer has not been forthcoming with necessary information about the evacuees who were once in his care, either.

Numerous organizations report being stymied by Dyer as they desperately try to obtain proper documentation for the OMC refugees. Some estimate the cost of fixing the paperwork issue at around $175,000, in addition to the costs of housing and feeding the evacuees in Pakistan as they wait.

Dyer remains active on Twitter, but has not commented on the dire circumstances facing his evacuees.

The fundraising efforts thus far have been spearheaded by Long Island, New York's PAWS UNITE PEOPLE, an animal rehabilitation shelter that is already overwhelmed by an effort to support nearly 170 refugees from a different mission--former veterinarians and staff members of the Kabul Small Animal Rescue, and their families, who PUP has been transporting out of Afghanistan to temporary housing in a third country legally and at great expense.

Media interest in the collapse of Operation Magic Carpet and its implications for the 58 refugees abandoned in Pakistan has been minimal. But make no mistake, these folks are desperate for help.

For some, the September 17th withdrawal of support left them with barely a week to find new housing. Many are desperately low on money for food. And meanwhile, some troubling activity on social media suggests that the Taliban are aware of the refugees' plight and intend to level harsh punishment on any evacuee who is deported back to Afghanistan.

"According to contacts in intelligence, the likelihood of the Taliban using any of the Mayhew staff that returns as 'examples' is very high," a source reports, adding that torture is a high possibility.

This is a dire situation. Regardless of who abandoned the Operation Magic Carpet refugees, these people need immediate help. And though Dominic Dyer's nearly 63,000 followers on Twitter could no doubt make a difference, nobody can force the OMC organizers to speak up on behalf of the people they've left behind.

No one can force Mayhew International to speak up, either. To date they, too, have been silent about the fate of their workers.

What is plain, though, is that a small organization like Paws Unite People simply cannot raise the necessary money to sustain the Magic Carpet evacuees by itself. PUP has set up a "band-aid" fund to raise $15,000 to cover the cost of finding new housing for the eighteen refugee families, but PUP's donations come from a limited pool of private individuals who are already by-and-large tapped out.

Right now, a small but passionate army of online supporters is quite literally contacting any and every celebrity and media figure they can think of in an attempt to bring awareness to this very urgent and disastrous situation.

To date (and with the exception of Downton Abbey's Peter Egan), the response has been nonexistent. Afghanistan simply isn't sexy these days, and maybe there's just so much suffering in the world that the cries of these few are just getting lost in the noise.

Either way, the road is only going to get rockier for the 58 Operation Magic Carpet refugees abandoned in Pakistan. Any who are deported back to Afghanistan will be lucky to survive the Taliban, while those who remain in Pakistan could very well starve in the streets, robbed of their abilities to work to support themselves and forgotten by those in whom they put their faith and trust.

The silence of those who ought to speak up is damning. These brave people truly need a voice.

Please consider donating to help the families abandoned by Operation Magic Carpet. Now, more than ever, they desperately need support.

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