A lawyer for the famed all-girls Afghan robotics workforce has despatched a cease-and-desist letter to an Oklahoma lady, telling her to cease taking credit score for the ladies’ escape from Kabul and warning that her quite a few media appearances endanger their group’s remaining members in Afghanistan.
The lady, Allyson Reneau, spoke final week to In the present day.com after which to a number of different media retailers, telling a narrative of her supposed involvement within the evacuation of a number of members of the robotics workforce, recognized internationally because the “Afghan Dreamers.” These retailers reported that she had “saved” the ladies from possible oppression below the Taliban.
However a lawyer for the workforce’s dad or mum group, the Digital Citizen Fund, mentioned that Reneau has overstated her position and has, the truth is, put the ladies and their households in danger as a result of her repeated claims are undermining ongoing rescue efforts within the nation.
“Continuingly recycling previous photos with the Afghan Ladies Robotics Staff, a lot of whom are minors, as validation that you simply had something to do with their immensely disturbing and harmful escape not solely impacts the security of the ladies however it additionally considerably impacts the security of the members of the workforce who nonetheless stay in Afghanistan,” wrote Kim Motley, a lawyer for the group and a Digital Citizen Fund board member, in a letter despatched to Reneau simply after midnight Wednesday. “It’s extremely unlucky that you’d use such a tragically horrible scenario . . . for what seems to be your personal private achieve.”
A spokesman for the Qatari Overseas Ministry, which helped evacuate many Afghans, together with the robotics workforce members, additionally accused Reneau of taking credit score for a rescue she had little to do with – and lambasted the U.S. media for making her a “White savior.”
Reneau denied that she has achieved something however inform the reality. “‘I’m above board, and in case you don’t inform the reality, then you don’t have anything else to point out for it,” she instructed The Washington Publish in a telephone interview Wednesday. She mentioned she was perplexed however undeterred by the “blowback” towards her efforts.
“The eye I’ve gotten has allowed me to assist different Afghan ladies, so I don’t see any purpose for me to cease,” she mentioned.
The dispute underscores how troublesome it’s to cease a media narrative as soon as it begins to unfold, particularly in a fast-moving and chaotic story such because the one unfolding in Afghanistan, the place information retailers are hungry for developments and feel-good tales.
How Reneau turned designated as a supposed hero of this explicit evacuation began on Aug. 19, simply days after the Taliban’s swift takeover of Afghanistan, when In the present day.com revealed a narrative dramatically titled, “Oklahoma mother of 11 helps rescue 10 women on Afghanistan’s robotics workforce.”
The story mentioned that Reneau – an entrepreneur who graduated from Harvard’s extension college in 2016 and serves on the board of the Mars Discover basis – had met a few of the women at a 2019 house exploration convention within the District of Columbia after which stored in contact with them.
Unable to sleep because the Taliban superior throughout Afghanistan, Reneau mentioned, she resolved to get the ladies out even when it meant flying internationally. “I made a decision that Monday, I’m simply going to fly to Qatar – like a leap of religion – and see what I can do,” she instructed In the present day.
In the long run, Reneau didn’t get on the aircraft. She instructed In the present day that, as an alternative, she contacted an previous roommate who labored within the U.S. Embassy in Qatar and the 2 labored to safe paperwork for the ladies’ exit from Afghanistan.
The In the present day story was considerably rewritten, with a be aware added on the backside, after it was revealed – taking the main target off Reneau and quoting a board member of the robotics workforce’s dad or mum group: “In the end the ladies ‘rescued’ themselves.” However the story of a heroic Oklahoma mom rapidly unfold throughout different media.
CNN’s Brianna Keilar interviewed Reneau, telling her, “This actually is a unprecedented story that I believe a variety of Individuals who’re feeling helpless and wish to do one thing, they should hear this.” So did an NBC affiliate in Oklahoma. “I simply had an amazing, dreadful feeling that they have been in a variety of hazard,” Reneau instructed the Oklahoma station.
The New York Publish inaccurately wrote that Reneau actually had flown to Qatar. So did the Wall Road Journal editorial web page, which steered that President Joe Biden put “this extraordinary lady” in control of the Afghanistan evacuation – earlier than correcting the editorial to notice that Reneau had not flown anyplace. (Reneau instructed The Washington Publish that she by no means represented that she went to Qatar.)
The story was additionally picked up by the Each day Mail, Enterprise Insider and plenty of native TV associates and abroad retailers, a lot of which initially made little point out of the essential position of non-Individuals within the women’ rescue.
Qatar coordinated the evacuation immediately with representatives of the Digital Citizen Fund, the robotics workforce’s dad or mum group, mentioned Qatari Overseas Ministry spokesman Ibrahim AlHashmi.
Roya Mahboob, an Afghan enterprise government and founding father of the Digital Citizen Fund, contacted a Qatari diplomat concerning the women on Aug. 13. Days later, the ladies met with that authorities’s ambassador to Afghanistan “in a safe location,” AlHashmi mentioned. “He escorted them safely to the airport, the place they have been evacuated to Doha in a aircraft organized by Qatar’s armed forces.”
He mentioned the Qatari authorities by no means labored with Reneau or heard from the U.S. Embassy about her. (A spokesperson for the State Division mentioned the company couldn’t verify particulars of particular person instances, citing privateness considerations.)
“She took the company from the ladies and he or she claimed credit score,” AlHashmi mentioned. “The media let her be a White savior, claiming the ladies have been saved by her. They got here to world consideration due to their work . . . so it ought to be about them and their braveness and the work they’ve achieved. This ought to be the story that the media is specializing in, not a girl who’s 1000’s of miles away who’s claiming credit score.”
The robotics workforce has been internationally well-known for years, and the destiny of the members below the returning Taliban has been tracked by many shops, together with the The Washington Publish, NBC Information and the New York Instances – which broke the information of the ladies’ exit from Afghanistan in an Aug. 19 story that made no point out of Reneau.
However whatever the framing,the media consideration on their escape has introduced on new risks and underscored the problems of getting weak individuals out of Afghanistan.
Afghans usually have giant households, and the Taliban targets family members left behind, mentioned Arash Azizzada, an Afghan group organizer in Los Angeles who has been concerned with evacuation efforts.
“Relations of the robotics workforce have been in contact with me, asking me for help with evacuating their prolonged household as a result of the media protection has now put them at risk and they’re now fearing retribution by the Taliban,” Azizzada mentioned.
Reneau – who was beforehand on the In the present day Present in 2011 (“Mother of 11 heads off to Harvard“) – bought on In the present day.com’s radar when one her Fb posts concerning the robotics groups was forwarded to a author there.
Mahboob then confirmed to In the present day.com that members of the workforce had met Reneau previously and that the ladies made it out of Afghanistan.However she mentioned she by no means confirmed that Reneau performed a central position within the evacuation.
“I’m speaking with so many individuals who say they wish to help my program,” Mahboob mentioned via tears, “however nobody else . . . then takes credit score and makes it a narrative about themselves.”
Reneau mentioned she by no means sought the limelight. “I bought into this entire deal to rescue individuals. That was my objective. I didn’t need it to show right into a media circus,” Reneau mentioned. “It’s not about me being superwoman; it’s about these women.”
Not all the Afghan robotics workforce members are overseas. And in subsequent media appearances, Reneau has mentioned she remains to be working to get extra weak ladies out, whereas additionally noting the work of the Qatari authorities and others. A Fb fundraiser entitled Afghan Ladies Rescue Fund has raised greater than $50,000 with cash going to Reneau’s nonprofit group. Reneau mentioned that all the funds raised will go to the ladies who’ve left the nation however isn’t positive the right way to get them the cash but, given the dispute with their dad or mum group.
She mentioned has been inundated with requests from Afghan ladies since her media tour and is working with a former NASA basic counsel and a Yale Legislation College workforce, and has “an extraction workforce on the bottom” in Afghanistan. “I’m not going to depart one behind,” she instructed conservative talk-show host Glenn Beck on Tuesday. “The one factor I’m lacking is planes.”
Beck, who has a corporation engaged on evacuating Christians and different spiritual minorities from the nation, mentioned he may present the planes if she will get evacuees to the tarmac.
“We’re Individuals, and we determine it out, don’t we, Glenn?” Reneau responded.
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The Washington Publish’s Alice Crites contributed to this report.