Taliban Takeover Raises Concerns About Future Of Afghan Girls Robotics Team : Goats and Soda The teenagers made headlines when they came to Washington in 2017 for an international competition. Today they face a uncertain future with the Taliban again in charge of their homeland.

The Future Of The Afghan Girls Robotics Team Is Precarious

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In 2017, the Afghan girls robotics team made headlines when they came to Washington for an international competition. They represented a new Afghanistan, one where girls and women were getting opportunities long denied. Today, these girls face a precarious future with the Taliban again in charge of their homeland. NPR's Greg Myre met the robotics team in Washington four years ago, and he's spoken with their American lawyer who's trying to ensure their safety. Greg, what's the situation for these girls right now? Are they safe?

GREG MYRE, BYLINE: Well, I've been in touch with their lawyer, who's represented them for years. Her name is Kim Motley. And she's in North Carolina, but she's been in close contact with the girls, and some are young women now. She didn't want to talk about specifics because it's very fluid and she's very worried about their safety. And now we've just seen a report this morning in The New York Times that at least some of the girls have made it out on a flight from Kabul to Qatar, while others are still inside the country.

MARTINEZ: OK, so at least a little bit of good news. Remind us, though, Greg, how this team came to be.

MYRE: They - this was formed by teenage girls in the western Afghan city of Herat who are interested in science and computers and robotics. And so four years ago, they wanted to take part in this big robotics competition in Washington just a couple blocks from the White House. Six of the girls came. They performed very well, made a big splash. And these are all girls born after the Taliban were tossed out in 2001, and they really showed how much the country had changed.

MARTINEZ: So when they got to Washington, you got to spend some time with them. How did that happen?

MYRE: Well, my wife and I have reported from Afghanistan for a long time. We knew the Afghan ambassador in Washington. He said these girls really wanted to meet American teenage girls. Well, we have two of them. So we invited the Afghan girls over for dinner, and our girls invited their friends, and it was kind of like a slumber party. They sat around, and there was lots of giggling. They all agreed Harry Styles was very cute, and they sang and danced to Taylor Swift. The Afghans loved our dog, but it completely baffled them that it was allowed in the house. They said this would never have happened in Herat. Dogs are considered unhygienic.

MARTINEZ: Your daughters were representing America there.


MARTINEZ: So fast-forward to today, what's their lawyer saying about these gut-wrenching scenes out of Afghanistan?

MYRE: Well, Kim Motley says the U.S. had to know that this withdrawal could mean something bad for women there.

KIM MOTLEY: We put them in this situation. We went there and we sold them this dream of democracy and freedom. And I think because of that, there were millions and millions of little girls that were educated. But now we're leaving, and everyone knew that this day would come.

MYRE: And she's very upset the way President Biden talked about the Afghan military not fighting. She said this ignores the battle that Afghan women have been waging.

MOTLEY: I'm sorry. The girls that were going to school for the last 20 years - that's fighting. The women that are doctors, lawyers, judges, running for politics, you know, the Afghan girls robotics team - that's fighting. So I'm sorry that my girls weren't picking up AK-47s, but they were fighting, and we have a duty to protect them.

MYRE: And Motley says she's getting desperate, anguished phone calls daily from women in Afghanistan who are fearful of going back to work or going to school.

MARTINEZ: That's NPR's Greg Myre. Greg, thanks a lot.

MYRE: My pleasure.

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