Female Afghan Robotics Team Finds Refuge in Mexico and Soccer Players Evacuate to Australia

"We are far from our homes, we will always be united and thanks to your help we will achieve it," one team member said at a press conference

Afghan all-girls robotics team
Photo: AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

Women from a celebrated Afghanistan robotics team and from the national soccer squad were among those successfully evacuated to other countries this week in the wake of the Taliban takeover.

On Tuesday, five members of the robotics team reached Mexico City on a commercial flight, according to the Associated Press and CNN. The group, which also included one of the young women's partners, had traveled through six countries to reach their destination.

"Welcome to your home," Foreign Relations Secretary Marcelo Ebrard said upon their arrival, adding that the country will provide "whatever legal status they consider best" at this time.

Afghan all-girls robotics team
AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo

At a press conference, team member Fatemah Qaderyan reportedly said Mexico saved their lives.

"From now on forward we will have opportunities for many more achievements in our lives and thus be part of the fight for a better life," Qaderyan said, per CNN. "Although we are far from our homes, we will always be united and thanks to your help we will achieve it."

The all-female robotics team has won international awards for its inventions and worked on creating low-cost ventilators from used car parts to help fight COVID-19 on the front lines last year.

Other members of the team have found refuge in Qatar following the collapse of the Afghanistan government, according to CNN.

Also on Tuesday, athletes from Afghanistan's women's soccer team flew from Kabul to Australia, The Washington Post reported. The players, sports officials and their family members were among 75 people flown to safety.

Haley Carter, a former U.S. Marine Corps officer who also previously served as an assistant coach of the national soccer team, described the escape as "nothing short of a miracle."

Afghanistan's women football team players carry their national flag as they celebrate after defeating Pakistan's Baluchistan National Women football team in the semi-final match of Pakistan's National Women Football Championship, at the Jinnah Stadium in Islamabad, 22 August 2007

"We're hoping to get as many as we can out over the next couple of days. The window is obviously closing," she told the Post. "Time is of the essence."

The Afghanistan women's national soccer team was created in 2007 — six years after the Taliban lost power during the U.S. invasion — with the goal of empowering girls and women through sports, former team captain Khalida Popal told the paper.

From its inception, however, the women's team declared the Taliban to be its enemy, making members vulnerable following the insurgents' takeover.

President Joe Biden has said the U.S. is not planning to stay beyond the Aug. 31 withdrawal deadline but is focused, in the final days, on ensuring Americans and allies can leave the country.

The Taliban has since insisted all foreign troops must be out of Afghanistan by that date.

The U.S. continues to evacuate tens of thousands from the country, after facing criticism over how the withdrawal unfolded. But Taliban checkpoints surrounding the Kabul airport have made it difficult for some Afghans to flee,with people reportedly beaten as they try and pass through.

If you would like to support those in need during the upheaval in Afghanistan, consider:

* Donating to UNICEF to aid Afghans in the country or
* Donating to the International Refugee Assistance Project to help those fleeing.

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