NORMAN, Okla. (KFOR) – An Oklahoma mother of 11 has initiated an international effort to help rescue girls from Afghanistan, amidst the unrest of the Taliban taking over the country. On August 17, ten girls from the Afghan Girls Robotic Team were flown to safety in Qatar.
Allyson Reneau met five of these Afghan girls at the Humans to Mars Summit in Washington, D.C., in 2019. Reneau is on the board of directors of Explore Mars, which puts on the conference.
“I think because I’m a mom of nine daughters, we took to each other very quickly and became friends,” she said.
Reneau, who lives in Norman, never forgot the girls and kept in touch with them. When the Taliban took over Afghanistan this month, she felt she had to do something to help the girls who were in the city of Herat.
“I just had an overwhelming, dreadful feeling that they were in a lot of danger,” she said.
She then confirmed that was the case.
“They said the Taliban was coming into their city and they didn’t know if they would be alive or not,” she continued.
Rather than just dread what could happen to the teenage girls during their country’s unrest, Reneau reached out to those in power, determined to help the girls, ages 16 to 18, find a way out.
She remembered a former roommate who was now working at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. Together, the couple teamed up with others, and on Aug. 17, ten of the girls were airlifted from Herat to a safe location in Qatar.
“I communicate with them just a little bit,” Reneau said. “They seem to be very happy. They’ve very grateful, but we have to remember that they’ve left everything behind, their families. They came with the clothes on their back and they’re just hoping to get educated.”
Reneau believes in their world of uncertainty, education will continue to be a light for the girls. She will stand by them as they pursue higher education.
“Education completely transformed my life, and I really believe if we can empower women to get an education it can transform theirs as well,” she said.
She’s also endlessly grateful for their safety.
“Still, when I think about it, I wonder if it really happened because it seems so miraculous.”
The mission isn’t over, as Reneau and a team in the Middle East are still working to get 25 more girls from the robotics team out of Afghanistan.