Afghan all-girl robotics team members land in Mexico

FILE PHOTO: Members of an Afghan all-female robotics team work on an open-source and low-cost ventilator in Herat
FILE PHOTO: Members of an Afghan all-female robotics team work on an open-source and low-cost ventilator, during the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak in Herat Province, Afghanistan April 15, 2020. REUTERS/Jalil Ahmad/File Photo

August 25, 2021

By Katanga Johnson and Anthony Esposito

MEXICO CITY (Reuters) – Five members of an all-girl Afghan robotics team arrived in Mexico on Tuesday evening, fleeing an uncertain future at home after the recent collapse of the U.S.-backed government and takeover by the Taliban militant group.

“We give you the warmest welcome to Mexico,” Martha Delgado Undersecretary for Multilateral and Human Rights at the Mexican Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the women as she greeted them during a news conference at Mexico City’s airport.

The Taliban seized power in Afghanistan last week as the United States and its allies withdrew troops from the country. The White House and U.S. allies are racing to complete the evacuation of all foreigners and vulnerable Afghans before the expiry of an Aug. 31 deadline agreed with the Taliban, U.S. President Joe Biden said this week.

The team, made up of girls and women as young as 14, has been heralded for winning international awards for its robots and started work in March on an open-source, low-cost ventilator as the coronavirus pandemic hit the war-torn nation.

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.

Mexico has pledged to aid Afghan women and girls. Mexico’s Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard said on Twitter on Aug. 18 that the country had begun “processing of the first refugee applications of Afghan citizens, especially women and girls who have requested it,” with the aid of Guillermo Puente Ordorica, Ambassador of Mexico in Iran.

Tuesday’s safe arrival in Mexico was made possible by an “extensive international effort and coordination from a group of volunteers” who helped the girls, according to a volunteer who requested anonymity for fear of the safety of the families that remain under Taliban control.

Other members of the robotics team landed in Qatar in recent days.

(Reporting by Katanga Johnson in Washington and Anthony Esposito in Mexico City; Editing by Heather Timmons and Sandra Maler)

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