In 2017, an all-girls robotics team nicknamed the Afghan Dreamers made headlines after their visas to attend a competition in the US were rejected, then granted after lobbying from then-President Trump. Now, they are trying to escape a nightmare. Some members of the team, based in the western city of Herat, managed to get out of Afghanistan on a flight Tuesday but others are facing a very uncertain future under Taliban rule, the New York Times reports. Tech entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, the team's founder, says the team members who fled Herat when the Taliban seized the city are now in Qatar and will continue their education there. She says the "Taliban have promised to allow girls to be educated to whatever extent allowed by Shariah law," but "we will have to wait to see what that means."
The team, made up of around 25 girls between 12 and 18 years old, designed ventilators made from old Toyota Corolla parts when COVID hit the country last year. Human rights lawyer Kimberley Motley told CTV Wednesday that she has been in contact with team members terrified about their future as the Taliban begin to restrict women's rights. She says she is getting phone calls from desperate women every day and is very skeptical about the Taliban's promises. "I'm talking to a lot of people on the ground who are telling me how girls are being told at colleges, don't come back to school," Motley says, per NPR. "Women are at their jobs, are saying they're being told, don't come back to work." (Read more Afghanistan stories.)