An Oklahoma mother of 11 traveled to Afghanistan earlier this month to rescue 10 members of an all-girls robotics team before the Taliban managed to take over the country, though she said she hopes to return to rescue still more people.
NBC News reported that 60-year-old Allyson Reneau, a Harvard grad with a Masters in international relations and U.S. space policy, decided on her own to travel to the war-torn country to save as many members of the Afghan Girls Robotics Team as possible.
Reneau flew to the Gulf nation of Qatar, which hosts one of the largest overseas U.S. military bases, on Aug. 9 after a “Hail Mary” phone call to a one-time roommate at the American embassy asking for help to get the girls out as Taliban forces known for harsh treatment of women swept through the country.
Reneau said that she had been in contact with members of the team consisting of girls between the ages of 16 and 18 since 2019 when she was on the board of directors for Explore Mars. She had met the girls during a Humans to Mars conference, an annual event sponsored by the organization, the report continued.
The robotics team was celebrated throughout Western media as a positive future for Afghanistan in addition to them being an example of how rights for women had improved following the U.S. invasion two decades ago in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The international relations expert told NBC News she just “couldn’t shake” the thought that the young women were going to be in danger as she watched from afar as the Taliban toppled one provincial government after another and took over major cities.
She said she first contacted the office of Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), who is a senior member of the Armed Services Committee, but that went nowhere after Inhofe got “overwhelmed with the need to help our American citizens,” Reneau told NBC News.
So she decided to take on the task herself, booking a flight to the Middle East but still quite a distance from Afghanistan. Thankfully, her old roommate was able to lend her a helping hand after she arrived in Qatar.
“I remembered my former roommate in D.C. a couple of years ago was transferred to Qatar,” she told NBC. “She said she worked in the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. … She was sure her boss would approve helping the girls.
“She wrote up a request, and I got all of their passports together,” Reneau added. “She went back to the embassy at midnight and worked all night to prepare the documents [and] packets for the girls.”
Reneau told NBC News that it was very hectic getting the robotics team out. They “were in a sea of chaos with 8 million people and a city halfway around the world,” which forced her to also work all night at the embassy.
“It’s very narrow window of opportunity,” she told the news network. “I knew that if I didn’t run through that door now — it’s now or never. Sometimes you only get one chance.”
The first flight out was canceled, but 10 of the girls managed to hop aboard the next flight out of the American side of Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, which is now turbulent, violent, and deadly after Taliban forces surrounded it this week and are preventing people from getting through.
Reneau added that the girls have been taken to a secure place in the United States and are going to get an opportunity to pursue higher education, and that she’s still trying to get 25 other members of the team out of Afghanistan.
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