Afghan all-girls robotics team flee safely to Qatar with foreign support

Afghan all-girls robotics team flee safely to Qatar


The nine teenage girls of the Afghan robotics team have arrived safely in Qatar after days of negotiations by a New York based NGO to evacuate them. 

The girls, aged 15 to 19, and their 25-year-old teacher, are now in the capital Doha, where they are likely to remain.

The Qatar government organised a flight to get the group out of Afghanistan, as well as expedite visas for them before their departure. 

The team made world headlines when they won an award at a top robotics festival in Estonia in 2017. The year before, they were denied visas to the US to compete in a robotics competition. 

The team’s parent organisation, Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) said in a statement that they had sought assistance from Qatar on August 12, three days before the Taliban’s capture of Kabul. 

DCF board member Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown said that once they learned of the possibility of Kabul’s takeover, they acted immediately.

“When we heard that Kabul was going to fall, we were able to contact the [Qatari foreign] ministry and they immediately started expediting visas to get them out,” Schaeffer Brown told the BBC.

“They are taking very good care of them.”

She was keen to point out that the teenage girls were not “rescued”.

“The girls rescued themselves through all their hard work and bravery over the past several years,” she said.

“The flight out of Kabul was only the end of a journey in which safety was a concern.”

The DCF, which was founded in 2012, aims to help girls and women in developing countries gain access to technology as well as virtually connect with others worldwide, and obtain technological and computer skills.

In April, The Qatar Fund for Development signed a grant agreement with the DCF to finance a vocational training project for girls and women in Afghanistan. 

The members of the robotics team originate from the western city of Herat in Afghanistan.

According to the BBC, Schaeffer Brown announced that several universities around the world have already offered scholarships to the teenagers. 

“It will be important for them to continue their education,” Schaeffer Brown said, adding that current and former members are still in Afghanistan, along with teachers and employees of the organisation.

The robotics team was formed in 2017 by then 29-year old Afghan tech entrepreneur, businesswoman and DCF founder Roya Mahboob. As one of the leading IT CEOs in the country of 39 million, Mahboob continues to also operate the Afghan Citadel Software Company, a full-service software development company she founded in 2010. 

Last year, the robotics team she founded built a series of low-cost ventilators out of car parts, called the MIT E-Vent, to help coronavirus patients. The mechanised, hand-operated ventilators were a welcome invention in light of the shortage of ventilators in the country


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