Female Afghan robotics team hopes to work for country
MEXICO CITY (AP) — An all-woman Afghan robotics team known as the “Afghan Dreamers” are now safe in Mexico, and say they want to help others who remain in their country after the Taliban takeover.
“We are concerned with what will happen to our home,” said Saghar, who asked that her last name not be used to avoid endangering her family members who remain in Afghanistan.
“Many people are leaving, but there are still girls who have dreams, there are also people who have dreams, and we want countries around the world to help Afghanistan to have peace over there so that the girls over there can have the opportunities to continue their path as well.”
The four women, accompanied by a sister and another man, arrived Tuesday after travelling through six countries to reach Mexico. They fled Afghanistan after the takeover of the country earlier this month by the Taliban, who have been hostile to women working or going to school after a certain age.
They said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that they intended to keep working, and save those who were left behind.
“The reason that we left was that we didn’t want our history to be ended by Taliban,” said Saghar. “We wanted to continue the path that we started to continue to go for our achievements and to go for having our dreams through reality. So that’s why we decided to leave Afghanistan and go for somewhere safe.”
Saghar, 17, who along with her teammates has competed in robotics competitions and won an award in 2017. The young women — who have embroidered team uniforms — had won international attention, and had recently taken on the challenge of constructing ventilators out of car parts for COVID-19 patients.
But their very success made it dangerous for them in Afghanistan.
“The situation outside of our homes were really high, risky, and even especially for our team who have been, you know, has a high profile, status and achievement and which is not something that is in favor of the Taliban regime,” said Saghar.
The young women had decided to flee a month or two before their western city of Herat fell to the Taliban in early August; the tension had become unbearable.
“We were so stressed out we couldn’t eat and sleep well for many days,” said Saghar. “And we were like, even crying many times and sitting together and crying and thinking about what a solution can we have.”
Mexico’s interior secretary, Olga Sánchez Cordero, said Wednesday that Mexico would grant asylum “to those Afghan citizens who require it.”
It is unclear how many more Afghans will be able to get out.
Mexico welcomed another group of 124 Afghan media workers and their families Wednesday after the group fled their country because of the Taliban takeover. The Foreign Relations Department said the Afghans had worked for The New York Times and “various media outlets” and had requested humanitarian visas because of the Taliban’s hostility toward journalists.
Mexico’s offer of safe haven to Afghan journalists is a sharp contrast in a country that is unable to protect its own reporters.
But Mexico said the Afghan Dreamers will be allowed to choose where they want to go, which country they choose to seek asylum in, and what they want to do.
“Mexico is not expecting them to stay or go, but rather that they decide what they want to do,” said Assistant Foreign Relations Secretary Martha Delgado.
For now, the young women are thinking about everything they had to leave behind, and all the other Afghans condemned to live under the Taliban’s harsh rules.
“It was really quite hard when we decided to leave Afghanistan because we left our beloved ones over there, our home, our memories, and everything over there,” Saghar said. “We, you know, saved our selves from that situation, we had calls from the children and our families saying that please save us the same as you did for yourself.”
“We hope that we find a way to help them as well,” she said.