Some Members of Afghanistan's All-Girls Robotics Team Have Escaped to Qatar

As the Taliban continues to take control over Afghanistan, the fate of women—and whether they’ll be able to access education freely—is still unknown.
Anya Zoledziowski
Toronto, CA
August 19, 2021, 3:16pm
all-girls robotics team afghanistan
Members of the Afghan all-girls robotics team make adjustments to the team robot in the practice area on July 17, 2017, in Washington, DC. Photo by PAUL J. RICHARDS/AFP via Getty Images

Members of the all-girls robotics team, beloved around the world, have fled Afghanistan as the Taliban continues to seize control of the country after 20 years of dormancy. 

The New York Times reported that the girls, part of Afghanistan’s first-ever all-girls robotics team, arrived in Qatar on a commercial flight out of Kabul on Tuesday, joining scores of people fleeing Afghanistan. They will stay in the gulf country to continue their education. 

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Other members will remain in Afghanistan, where it’s unknown what plans the Taliban have for women and girls. 

“The Taliban have promised to allow girls to be educated to whatever extent allowed by Sharia law,” Afghan tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob told the Times. “We will have to wait and see what that means.”

The Taliban, a militant group that imposes strict interpretations of Islamic law, controlled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001, until U.S.-backed forces overthrew the regime. At the time, the Taliban barred women from public life, including attending school, and banned music, movies, and television. The group has been accused of a number of human rights abuses, including violent punishment of dissidents and treating young women and girls as sex slaves. 

After 20 years of unrest and U.S. occupation, U.S. troops are withdrawing, and the Taliban has resurged, seizing most of the country, including the capital city of Kabul. It’s unknown yet how the group will rule the country, and how women and girls will be treated.

According to reports, however, the university in Herat, a Taliban-controlled city in western Afghanistan and the hometown for some of the girls on the robotics team, has already started turning women away, while other women are hiding at home in fear.

“If this government (the Taliban) wants to be legitimate, they can do things in real time to demonstrate to the world that women will have their rights equal to that of men,” prominent human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley, who previously appealed to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to help the girls seek refuge in Canada, told VICE World News.

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The girls wanted to come to Canada because their trip to the country in 2018, when they met Trudeau, was “life-changing,” she said. 

South of the border, U.S. President Joe Biden is facing steep criticism after defended his decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan and said that the Taliban’s takeover of the nation happened because Afghans don’t have the will to fight.

“Look at the millions and millions of women that have been educated in the last 20 years… I’m sorry the women aren't picking up AK47s—which frankly some are. And I’m sorry he doesn't realize that going to school, raising children is also fighting,” Motley said. 

“How dare he, honestly?” Motley said. “Women have been fighting.”

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