Afghanistan’s all-girls robotics team, which made headlines in recent years for their inventions, is desperately trying to escape the country after the Taliban took control of the capital city of Kabul over the weekend, according to a report from Canada’s CBC News.
“They’re worried about what tomorrow brings. They want to continue to be educated. They want to continue to be the future of Afghanistan. But it’s an extremely tenuous and dangerous situation for them,” human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley told CBC on Sunday.
Motley explained that Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau had been an “amazing supporter” of the girls, and met with them in 2018. Motley would like Canada to get the girls out of Afghanistan safely and presumably give them refugee status, something the country has promised 20,000 other vulnerable Afghans.
The 20-member robotics team, which includes girls ranging in age from 12 to 18 years old, were hailed in western media as the future of Afghanistan and a shining example of how women’s rights in the country had improved after the U.S. invasion. But the U.S. withdrawal has thrown the future of Afghanistan into doubt, as the Taliban took control of Kabul on Sunday without firing a single shot.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fled the country and didn’t put up any kind of fight against the Taliban, a group known for taking women and girls as sex slaves.
“Unfortunately, what’s been happening to little girls over this last week is that the Taliban has been literally going from door to door and literally taking girls out and forcing them to become child brides. And we are very, very concerned of that happening with this Afghan girls robotics team—these girls that want to be engineers, they want to be in the AI community and they dare to dream to succeed,” Motley said.
“And we are literally begging the Canadian government. We’re begging Prime Minister Trudeau, who has been an amazing supporter of the Afghan girls robotics team, to please allow them to come to Canada.”
Why Canada? The girls visited the country in 2018 and Motley believes it’s a place where these girls will have a future.
“Well, Canada has just been extremely kind to the Afghan girls robotics team. And it’s really with the government supporting them, frankly, when they met Prime Minister Trudeau, that was a huge life changing experience for them. They came to Canada, they competed in Canada, and actually they won the competition and they won the Rookie Star Award when they came there, which was the highest honor that they could win in their category for a robotics competition,” Motley said.
“And so they want to be educated. They want to be in a safe place. They want to make Afghanistan proud, and they want to make the world proud and to continue on with their robotics dreams, their A.I. dreams,” Motley continued. “And they believe that Canada would be an amazing place to continue to basically have a future.”
The scenes from Kabul airport overnight were horrendous to say the least. Footage circulating on social media purported to show people clinging to the engines of an American plane in an attempt to flee the country, while two other videos showed at least two people falling from a plane to their deaths.
Other videos simply showed the chaos of people trying to board planes at the airport, many reportedly without tickets or passports.
The U.S. flew in troops to ensure the safety of Americans fleeing the country, but the situation deteriorated quickly, with U.S. military personnel reportedly firing on a crowd and killing at least three people at Kabul’s airport overnight.
The Wall Street Journal, which didn’t directly implicate U.S. troops in the deaths of the three men, reports that about 6,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan:
U.S. Marines fired warning shots late Sunday when hundreds of Afghans who breached the perimeter rushed to board an idling C-17 transport aircraft, a Western military official said.
According to people trapped in the airport, American troops also repeatedly shot in the air to disperse the crowds during the night. Hundreds of Afghan civilians were seen close to the runway and around parked planes on Monday morning, with some hanging from boarding ramps as they scrambled to get into the aircraft, hindering evacuation efforts.
The U.S. military used two military helicopters flying low overhead to try to disperse the crowds, using smoke grenades and firing shots into the air, passengers said.
There were roughly 6,000 American troops in the Kabul airport or headed there, U.S. military officials said Sunday. More remain on standby in Kuwait.
Afghans had rushed to the airport after rumors circulated that flights were taking passengers even without passports and tickets.
It’s not immediately clear where the girls robotics team might be at the moment, though unconfirmed reports on Twitter claim a BBC journalist had seen the girls at Kabul’s airport. If that’s true, we can only hope they’re safe, something that’s not guaranteed for anyone who opposes the Taliban’s extreme anti-woman interpretation of Islam.