No goodbye: All-girl Afghan robotics team flee home

They all left Kabul, but ended up in completely different cities.

Five members of an all-female Afghan robotics team arrived in Mexico

the other team members – fled to Doha, Qatar.

All escaping an uncertain future at home in Afghanistan, any way they can after the collapse of the U.S.-backed government and takeover by the Taliban.

[AFGHAN ROBOTICS TEAM MEMBER, AYDA HAYDARPOURA]

"We left everything in Afghanistan. We had dreams, we left our families, we left our friends, we left all of our relatives without saying goodbye to them."

The team – made up of girls and women as young as 14 –has been heralded for winning international awards for its robots.

In March 2020, they started work on an open-source, low-cost ventilator as the coronavirus pandemic hit the war-torn nation.

Once approved, the ventilator was supposed to be rolled out in Afghan hospitals.

This is Somaya Faruqi, captain of the team, speaking in July 2020.

[18-YEAR-OLD HIGH SCHOOL STUDENT AND CAPTAIN OF THE AFGHAN GIRLS ROBOTICS TEAM, SOMAYA FARUQI]

"As you know, the coronavirus has become a global crisis today, and people around the world are looking for ways to eradicate it. Most patients with coronavirus die because they cannot breathe. That's why we decided to build a ventilator in Afghanistan because the number of these machines is low in Afghanistan and other countries. We hope that by building this machine, we will be able to use it in hospitals."

In 2017 the team competed in an academic robotics competition in the U.S.

even though they had initially been denied visas.

At the time members of the team said they saw the competition as a chance to help improve conditions in Afghanistan

where women and girls often face significant limitations in public and private life.

The Taliban - which previously barred girls from schools and women from working when they ruled Afghanistan in the late 1990s -

has promised to prioritize women's rights and girls' education.

The Islamic militant group seized power in Afghanistan in mid-August as the U.S. and its allies withdrew troops from the country.

Western nations are now racing to complete the evacuation of all foreigners and vulnerable Afghans

before the expiry of an August 31 deadline agreed with the Taliban.

Mexico has pledged to aid Afghan women and girls and says it’s begun processing the first refugee applications of Afghan citizens,

especially women and girls who have requested it.

"We give you the warmest welcome to Mexico"

were the words of Mexico’s Deputy Foreign Minister Martha Delgado

as she greeted the robotics team members at Mexico City's international airport on August 24th.

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