Afghanistan's All-Girls Robotics Team is Desperately Fighting to Escape the Country

Reports allege they are now missing.
Irmak Bayrakdar
Elham Mansoori, member of the Afghan Dreamers, working on the ventilator.Digital Citizen Fund

Afghanistan's all-girls robotics team, which previously made headlines with their inspiring inventions, is now fearing for their futures (and also their lives). Their hometown, Herat, was taken over by the Taliban following the United States' pull-out of the country. The team, also known as Afghan Dreamers, have overcome many obstacles, such as war and poverty, to pursue their dreams of engineering and AI. 

Now, all of that may be coming to an abrupt end. 

The 20-member team, which is comprised of girls aged 12 to 18, had been making Afghanistan proud by representing the country in global robotics tournaments. Most notably, the girls are known for building a low-cost ventilator from used car parts last year to help their country battle the COVID-19 pandemic. 

Now, they're desperately trying to find a way out of Afghanistan. A New-York based international human rights lawyer, Kimberley Motley, is fighting for their freedom. The lawyer is asking Canada to take the girls in as refugees.

Afghanistan's All-Girls Robotics Team is Desperately Fighting to Escape the Country
The team presenting their ventilator design. Source: Unicef

According to a video interview with Canadian Broadcast News on Sunday, Motley said "They're [Taliban members] in Herat, in the universities, they're turning girls away, they're telling girls, 'Don't come back to the university.' Women are showing up for work and are being turned away. They're [the robotics team] seeing this and watching tearfully as their city is crumbling." She also added that the girls "are extremely terrified."

The Taliban took charge of the Afghanistan government on Sunday, and President Ashraf Ghani reportedly fled the country. The Taliban are known for stripping women and girls of their basic human rights, such as education, and also forcing young girls to become child brides.

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Motley highlighted the dire nature of the situation in an interview with CDC. “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," she said, discussing the current situation in Afghanistan. She added, "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."

Subsequent reports noted that the girls robotics team had gone missing, but these reports could not be confirmed at the time of writing. 

Recent footage that has gone viral on social media shows people clinging on to an American plane in an attempt to escape the country, and at least two people falling from a plane to their deaths.

The country had previously dealt with more than a dozen years of war, which made education for girls in Afghanistan challenging. Just when inspirational students such as the Afghan Dreamers are making their mark on the world, it is sad to see it all crumble.

Earlier today, the Taliban said they will give amnesty to all who aided the U.S. forces, and so far, they seem to be honoring that promise. But with a female correspondent already told to get off the air, and the future of all women in Afghanistan thrown into uncertainty, it is fair to assume that the all-girls robotics team will likely suffer from the extremist views of the religious-based group.

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