UPDATE: On August 24, a lawyer for the Afghan Girls Robotics Team sent a letter of resignation to Allyson Reneau, asking her to stop exaggerating her role in helping the team leave Afghanistan. Reneau denied any exaggeration, saying she was part of a group effort. A full report on the dispute can be found here.
Ten girls from Afghanistan’s girls’ robotics team have been rescued from Afghanistan.
“Several members of the girls’ Afghan robotics team have safely arrived in Doha, Qatar, from Kabul, Afghanistan,” said a statement from the Digital Citizen Fund and Qatar’s Foreign Ministry on the Afghan Girls Robotic Team.
The team, which consists of a group of girls aged 16-18 who have overcome difficulties in pursuing their love of technology and robotics in Afghanistan, arrived safely in Doha, Qatar, a few days after Kabul fell to the Taliban.
“The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF), the parent organization of the team, is deeply grateful to the Qatari government for their outstanding support, which included not only speeding up the visa process but also sending a plane after outbound flights from Afghanistan were repeatedly canceled,” It says DCF in a statement to TODAY.
Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, a board member of DCF, told TODAY.com that she and the DCF founder had been working with Qatar since early August when it became clear that the Taliban would overthrow the government.
“The flight out of Kabul was only at the end of a journey where safety was always a concern,” she said.
“In the end, the girls ‘saved’ themselves. If it were not for their hard work and courage to take an education that brought them into contact with the world, they would still be trapped. We need to continue to support them and others like them., “she said. Unfortunately, several members of the team remain in Afghanistan. DCF is collaborating with Qatar to arrange transportation for the remaining members and their aides.
When Kabul fell, the robotics team was on the minds of many.
Allyson Reneau, a mother of 11 who graduated from Harvard in 2016 with a master’s degree in international relations and American space policy, could not stop thinking about the girls when the Taliban began taking over the country.
Reneau, 60, first met the girls through his work on the board of Explore Mars when the girls attended the 2019 Human to Mars conference. Reneau has kept in touch with the girls over the years, and as reports of a Taliban takeover grew, she had an overwhelming sense that the team of girls could be in danger.
“I remembered that my former roommate in DC a few years ago was transferred to Qatar,” Reneau explained. “She said she worked at the US Embassy in Qatar … she was sure her boss would approve of helping the girls.”
Reneau and her former roommate tried the necessary paperwork to get the girls out. It’s unclear how much their efforts helped, but Reneau is relieved to know that 10 of the girls are now safe. TODAY.com contacted the US State Department regarding this effort.
The girls were flown to a safe place where they will be able to take a higher education.
“We appreciate this and hope it translates into long-term commitment to girls’ education,” Brown said. “This is the most effective way to guarantee their safety and a better future for all.”
An earlier version of this story did not include the official statement from the Digital Citizen Fund and Qatar’s Foreign Ministry, as well as Qatar’s Foreign Ministry efforts to relocate the 10 members of the robotics team. TODAY.com will update this story as it continues to evolve.