An all-girls robotics team in Afghanistan, which recently made headlines for innovating a prototype using old car parts, is desperately asking Canada to take them in and help them flee the country, now under Taliban control.
The 20-member team, known as the “Afghan Dreamers”, includes girls between ages 12 and 18. They are “extremely terrified” after they watched national capital Kabul fall to the Taliban in horror, human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley told CBC News Network on Sunday.
“To talk to these girls and listen to them crying over the phone to be saved… Begging that the Canadians save them... These girls have a future. They deserve to have a future. They all want to go to college. They will not be able to do that if they remain in Afghanistan,” Ms Motley, who is trying to help the girls, said to the network.
“We are literally begging the Canadian government, we are begging prime minister [Justin] Trudeau who has been an amazing supporter of the Afghan girls robotics team to please allow them to come to Canada,” she said.
Mr Trudeau had met the group in 2018 in Canada during a robotics competition.
The team, from the provincial capital of Herat, was reportedly turned away by the ticketing authorities at the airport and is now waiting to leave Afghanistan.
The team has thrived ever since US forces overthrew the Taliban regime and was hailed as an example of the country overcoming war, terrorism and gender discrimination.
But amid the Taliban takeover of recent days, there are now fears the militant group will revert to their former brutal practices, including harsh punishments such as stoning, whipping and hangings.
The well-being of women and minorities is a major point of concern. Several experts have pointed out that the Taliban has in the past curtailed the freedom of women and is known to take women as sex slaves. Women were not allowed in public places without being accompanied by a male member of the household under the previous Taliban regime.
“Unfortunately, what’s been happening to little girls over this last week is that the Taliban has been literally going from door to door and literally taking girls out and forcing them to become child brides,” Ms Motley said.
“And we are very, very concerned of that happening with this Afghan girls robotics team. These girls want to be engineers, they want to be in the AI community and they dare to dream to succeed,” she said.
The Canadian government has committed to taking in 20,000 Afghan refugees into the country, but has reportedly not responded yet to requests to take in the “Afghan dreamers”.
The team competed and won several competitions outside their country. They also competed in Washington. The girls said they were on a life-saving mission during the height of the pandemic after they built a ventilator from used car parts.
“If we even save one life with our device, we will be proud,” 17-year-old Somaya Farooqi, a member of the team, said at the time.