A lawyer for the all-girls Afghan robotics team that managed to flee the Taliban-controlled country has told an Oklahoma mother of 11 to stop taking credit for rescuing them.
Allyson Reneau, 60, was sent a formal cease-and-desist letter Thursday by the Digital Citizen Fund — the parent organization that oversees the robotics team, the Washington Post reports.
“Continuingly recycling old pictures with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team, many of whom are minors, as validation that you had anything to do with their immensely stressful and dangerous escape not only impacts the safety of the girls but it also significantly affects the safety of the members of the team who still remain in Afghanistan,” wrote the fund’s lawyer, Kim Motley.
“It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”
Reneau, a Harvard graduate with a master’s degree in international relations and US space policy, met the girls, ages 16 to 18, in Washington, DC, in 2019 and said she’d maintain contact with them.
Photos of her posing with the robotics team — also known as the “Afghan Dreamers” — resurfaced in the last week.
Reneau told multiple US media outlets last week that she had reached out to a friend who works in the US Embassy in Qatar to help facilitate their rescue.
She had said she was planning to fly to Qatar herself but ultimately remained in the US to help from afar.
The Qatari Foreign Ministry, which worked directly with the Digital Citizen Fund to facilitate the rescue, accused Reneau of playing the “white savior.”
“She took the agency from the girls and she claimed credit,” a ministry spokesman told the outlet.
“The media let her be a white savior, claiming the girls were saved by her. (The girls) came to global attention because of their work … so it should be about them and their courage and the work they have done. This should be the story that the media is focusing on, not a woman who is thousands of miles away who is claiming credit.”
Reneau, however, denies she overstated her role in helping rescue the girls and said she was confused by the “blowback.”
“The attention I’ve gotten has allowed me to help other Afghan women, so I don’t see any reason for me to stop,” she said.
“I got into this whole deal to rescue people. That was my goal. I didn’t want it to turn into a media circus. It’s not about me being superwoman; it’s about these girls.”
Four members of the robotics team arrived in Mexico Tuesday after traveling through six countries.
“They have not only saved our lives, but they have also saved our dreams,” one of the young women said of host Mexico, where they were greeted by Foreign Minister Marcelo Ebrard.
“Our stories will not sadly end because of the Taliban,” the girl, who was wearing a mask, added through a translator. “Under this regime, we women will face difficulties … that is why we are grateful to be here.”
It is unclear where the other team members are now and the Washington Post said some were still in Afghanistan.