Mayhew to former employees: "Put your faith in God"
To say that we are 'dejected' is the understatement of the year. We are scarred by this traumatic experience. After the media coverage, we have stuck our neck out and have declared our side that we are opposed to the Taliban. Now, Taliban hard-liners are actively looking for our identity back in Kabul.
If, God forbid, we are to go back, the least punishment will be brutal torture. My hands are shaking as I write these last two sentences.
Right now, 58 men, women, and children sit abandoned in temporary housing in Pakistan. They are refugees from Afghanistan, former employees and their families of UK animal welfare organization Mayhew.
They fled their homes in late 2021, smuggled illegally into Pakistan without proper documentation by a pesticide-lobbyist-turned-animal-rights-influencer named Dominic Dyer and a British veterinarian named Tanya Crawley, with the assistance of an Israeli-American evacuation specialist named Moti Kahana.
I've written at length about Dyer, Crawley and Kahana's abortive "Operation Magic Carpet" which abandoned the Mayhew 58 in Pakistan without passports, visas, entry stamps, or any means of finding work to support, feed, and clothe themselves.
I've written about how the burden of responsibility for these dozens of refugees has fallen to Paws Unite People, a tiny New York animal shelter already struggling to remain solvent as it tries to ensure the safe evacuation and survival of 170 refugees once affiliated with the Kabul Small Animal Rescue.
And I've written about how Dominic Dyer has refused to comment on the failure of his Operation Magic Carpet, blocking anyone on social media, including former supporters, who've asked him about the fate of the refugees who trusted him with their lives.
I'll write more about Dyer soon. But today, I want to take a closer look at Mayhew's failure to protect its employees during and after the fall of Kabul in August of 2021.
In Mayhew's own words, as per a press release issued on September 30th of this year, the same day as dozens of young Hazara women similar to Mayhew's former employees were slaughtered by a suicide bomb in Kabul:
"Back in August 2021, following the Taliban’s return to power in Afghanistan, we suspended our programmes in the country for approximately two months to best protect the safety of our staff and to allow us to monitor a new and rapidly developing political situation. All of Mayhew Afghanistan staff continued to be paid their salaries during this time and were supported in line with our duties as an employer.
Once it was safe to resume our programmes in Kabul, around late September 2021, we committed to do so, but we understood that some staff felt compelled to resign their posts and leave our employment – and to leave Afghanistan."
The entirety of Mayhew's statement reads as a transparent--and, frankly, pretty gross--attempt to justify doing nothing to help the people who risked their lives to maintain their organization in Afghanistan.
And the truth, according to one of those former employees, is that "nothing" is exactly what Mayhew has done.
Hajira (not her real name) is one of two women in the refugee group who worked for Mayhew in Afghanistan. She is Hazara, which means she's subject to persecution and violence from the Taliban on three sides: her gender, her affiliation with a foreign organization, and her ethnicity.
Hajira has lived in fear and upheaval for well over a year. The portrait she paints of her former employer is damning.
"It was 9 o'clock on the 15th of August when the Taliban arrived in Kabul," she writes. "At short notice, [UK animal rights group] Nowzad began its campaign to get its staff to the UK.
"In marked contrast, Mayhew Afghanistan kept telling us don't make anything public, we are far more powerful than Nowzad and can easily get you to the UK. So as Nowzad visibly moved heaven and earth to put pressure on the UK government, we were taken in by Mayhew's pledges.
"They told us via audio message: 'Get your bags ready, you are supposed to be on one of the flights, just wait for a phone call. As soon as you receive the call, don't dither and get out of your houses.'
"We impatiently waited for that phone call that we haven't received to this day."
According to Hajira, it quickly became obvious that, unlike Pen Farthing and Nowzad, Mayhew had no intention of helping to evacuate the majority of its employees.
"They built up our hopes and then suddenly dashed our hopes only because they were not sincere. Even after the explosion near Kabul's airport gate, they kept mentioning, 'Your list has been sent to the ministry of foreign affairs, and as soon as we get a response from them, we will update you.'
"To date, neither did I hear from them, nor did Mayhew's representatives talk about it. What was the point?
"Another female employee and I were privately told to get our bags ready because Mayhew only wanted to help us two, apparently because we were the only two female surgeon staff and had no hope of employment in Afghanistan.
"This news was not kept under wraps and brought on anger from the male staff. As a result, we two also lost the opportunity to escape.
"Shortly thereafter, we received a call from [a Mayhew representative] saying 'Put your faith in God.'
"Finally, Mayhew in a Zoom meeting openly said that they cannot help."
Mayhew's public statements make no mention of the organization ever attempting to evacuate its staff, even as Pen Farthing and Nowzad made the safety of its own staff its highest priority.
Indeed, Mayhew seems to want nothing more than to wash its hands of any responsibility for its employees' lives.
"We had no involvement in [our former employees'] plans to leave the country and Mayhew has no connection whatsoever to Dominic Dyer or Operation Magic Carpet," the organization said in its statement.
What Mayhew won't acknowledge, however, is that it was its own inactivity and apparent apathy that pushed its employees to turn to Dyer and Tanya Crawley for help.
"By the time we turned to Operation Magic Carpet, it stood out a mile that Mayhew wouldn't keep its word, they cared about their organization, not human lives. We received promises from OMC organizers; the idea of a fresh start in a new country like the UK appealed to everyone.
"Anyone in our position would have done the same. We had no idea that we would be left stranded later. In hindsight, I shouldn't have put my trust in either Mayhew or Magic Carpet."
Essentially, the story that Hajira tells is that during those first fateful days of the Taliban takeover, while Nowzad was publicly campaigning for the safe evacuation of its staff, Mayhew Afghanistan instructed her and her colleagues to wait, and keep silent, and trust that the organization was powerful enough to get them out.
Then, when the window of opportunity for escape was all but closed, Mayhew told Hajira and her colleagues that they could not evacuate them. In desperation, the Mayhew employees turned to Dominic Dyer and the lofty promises of Operation Magic Carpet to save them.
Mayhew conveniently uses Magic Carpet as an excuse not to live up to its moral obligations to its former employees, as though the decision by Hajira and her colleagues to flee the Taliban was a choice with any kind of alternative--as though their lives weren't in clear, and immediate, danger.
According to Hajira, this is because Mayhew wished to continue its operations in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, and knew that assisting its staff would jeopardize their standing.
"Mayhew is well aware of how minorities are massacred, people who have worked with foreigners are branded as spies and infidels, yet they didn't care about our lives; they cared about their organization that shouldn't collapse," she writes. "Had they helped us, their organization would have failed."
Mayhew's own statements definitely seem to prioritize their work in Afghanistan over the welfare of their employees.
"In Afghanistan, we have recruited and trained a new team of vets and support staff to replace those who chose to leave, as we had a duty to continue delivering our life-saving work," the organization wrote in its September 30th statement. "Should any of our former employees return to Afghanistan and we have vacant positions at that time, we will of course consider them."
Recently, Mayhew Director of International Projects and Relations Caroline Yates reiterated that operations in Kabul are the organization's main focus:
"Mayhew is limited both financially and practically in the extent to which we can provide assistance to this group. Additionally, we have a duty of care toward our team on the ground in Kabul, which continues to guide our response to this situation."
Did Mayhew refuse to save the lives of its employees because it didn't want to risk losing its Afghanistan operations under Taliban rule? What did it expect would happen to the women and Hazara who'd worked for them before the fall? Did they care?
Do they care now?
On October 14th, the organization released an additional statement about its former employees. It reads:
"We at Mayhew, along with other organisations and members of the public, remain concerned for 18 former Mayhew Afghanistan colleagues who are Afghan nationals and who we believe to currently be in Pakistan with their families.
"We have been making ongoing efforts, which are confidential, to further support this group; this follows several letters to the UK government since August 2021. We are hopeful for a positive outcome for our former colleagues and their families."
The thing is, whatever confidential "ongoing efforts" Mayhew is making, they are not helping. Paws Unite People remains saddled with the enormous financial burden of keeping the Mayhew 58 alive, with Mayhew not even deigning to boost PUP's increasingly desperate appeals for help on social media.
Mayhew's board of trustees is comprised primarily of wealthy elites with ties to the global financial sector. The organization had nearly £2m in free reserves last year.
Mayhew's former employees are starving in Pakistan. They are desperate for basic necessities like clothing, furniture, medical care. No one on Mayhew's staff or board of trustees will lift a finger to help them survive.
Mayhew claims it is making efforts to support its former employees. But Mayhew told Hajira it would get her out of Afghanistan, a claim that Hajira believes was never a serious promise.
"Mayhew takes pride in having a stronger board than other charities," Hajira writes. "If so, then why its ex-staff wasn't and isn't being helped?
"Nowzad was thoughtful and compassionate enough to help its female staff. Yet Mayhew's so-called powerful board's callous response is shameful. Did its board do anything to help the female staff who are both Hazaras?
"In a situation where we desperately needed sympathy more than ever, not only were we not helped by Mayhew but also not given attention to.
"All I can say is that Mayhew can put an end to this mess either through its voice or through its influence, but still does not lift a finger."
The more I dig into Operation Magic Carpet, the more excuses I hear from people in positions of power and privilege as to why these fifty-eight lives simply aren't their responsibility.
From Dominic Dyer to Moti Kahana to Mayhew itself, the people entrusted with the welfare of these dozens of refugees seem all too content to rationalize their inaction. To look away instead of taking action.
Again, if I were a Mayhew donor, I would be asking serious questions of leadership.
And if I were an employee, I would be questioning my commitment to an organization that won't prioritize the lives of my colleagues in danger.
"I distinctly remember that Mayhew kept saying one thing: 'Keep in mind that none of you stand a chance of getting out without our help--you get the picture?'
"After Operation Magic Carpet organizers helped us, Mayhew added one more sentence: 'I told you! Even if anyone helps you, they cannot succeed without our help.'
"For heaven's sake, do we really deserve this?"
Please consider donating to Paws Unite People's Fundrazr to buy the Operation Magic Carpet evacuees a little more time.