Oklahoma, mother of 11, rescues members of Afghan robotics team

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A mother-of-11 from Oklahoma flew to Qatar earlier this month to help rescue 10 members of Afghanistan’s all-female robotics team, and hopes to save more as the Taliban take power in Kabul.

Allyson Reneau, a 60-year-old Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in international relations and US space policy, took on the task of trying to save members of the Afghan Girls Robotic Team, according to NBC.

She flew to Qatar on August 9 after calling a former roommate at the U.S. Embassy to help her drive the girls away from the rising Taliban, known for their oppressive treatment of women.

Reneau had been in contact with the team – made up of girls aged 16 to 18 – since 2019, when she worked on the Explore Mars board of directors and met the girls during their attendance at the annual Humans to March of the organization.

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The team has been hailed in Western media as the future of the war-torn country, as well as a shining example of improving women’s rights after the U.S. invasion after 9/11.

Reneau said she “couldn’t shake” the feeling the girls were in danger watching the news of the advancing insurgency army in early August. The first step she took was to call Sen. Jim Inhofe, R-Okla., A prominent member of the Armed Services Committee, but that “lead cooled off” when the senator became “overwhelmed. by the need to help our American citizens, ”Reneau told NBC.

Then she decided to give it a try, jumping on a flight to the Middle East, but still thousands of miles from Afghanistan. Fortunately, her friend in Qatar was able to help her once she arrived.

“I remembered that my old roommate in Washington a few years ago moved to Qatar,” Reneau told NBC. “She said she worked at the US Embassy in Qatar.… She was sure her boss would approve of helping the girls.”

“She wrote up an application and I gathered all of their passports,” Reneau said. “She returned to the embassy at midnight and worked all night to prepare the documents [and] packages for girls. “

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Reneau said it was chaotic trying to get the girls out, who “were in a sea of ​​chaos with 8 million people and a city halfway around the world,” forcing her to work at the embassy all night.

“It’s a very narrow window of opportunity,” she told NBC. “I knew if I didn’t walk through that door now, it’s now or never. Sometimes you only get one chance.”

After one flight was canceled, 10 girls boarded the next flight to the US side of Kabul airport, which has been a scene of violence and unrest as residents try to flee the Taliban regime.

The girls have been taken to a safe place in the United States and will pursue higher education, Reneau said.

According to NBC, Reneau is still working to get 25 more girls on the team to safety.

“All the emotion, two weeks of work for them, it hit me suddenly,” she said.

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Human rights groups demanded earlier this week that Canada welcome the girls’ robotics team as the Taliban “go door to door and literally take the girls out and force them to be married children.” “. The team participated in 2018.

“[The girls] are worried about what tomorrow will bring. They want to continue to educate themselves. They want to continue to be the future of Afghanistan, but it is an extremely precarious and dangerous situation for them, ”human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley told the Canadian Broadcasting Corp on Sunday.

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