A lawyer for the parent organization of the Afghan girls robotics team recently evacuated from Kabul is demanding an Oklahoma woman stop claiming that she's responsible for their rescue.
Attorney Kim Motley, who is also a board member for the Digital Citizen Fund, wrote in a cease-and-desist letter that Allyson Reneau, an entrepreneur and author, was overstating her role in helping the robotics team escape, and that her remarks were putting at risk efforts to evacuate more people from Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover.
“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,” Motley wrote, according to The Washington Post.
“It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain,” she added.
In a statement to The Hill, the Digital Citizen Fund said, "At this time, the attention and the focus should be on the girls."
"It is their accomplishments and bravery that have won the hearts of so many," the organization added. "They are the heroes. They have lived with risk for years."
Reneau, who said she first met the girls while serving as a board member for Explore Mars, told Today.com and other news outlets that she flew to Qatar earlier this month and received help from a friend who worked at the U.S. Embassy there.
The Oklahoma woman said she worked with the embassy for two weeks before the 10 girls from the team, who range in age from 16 to 18, were flown out of Afghanistan to a secure location.
A spokesman for the Qatari Foreign Ministry told the Post that Reneau had little to do with the rescue, criticizing U.S. media for portraying the woman as a “White savior.”
Reneau denied that she was misrepresenting the situation, telling the Post, “I’m above board, and if you don’t tell the truth, then you have nothing else to show for it.”
“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 added.
The members of the robotics team are among the tens of thousands of people who have been evacuated from Afghanistan in recent weeks, with growing concerns over the security threats facing people still there, especially after a suicide bomber outside the Kabul airport killed 13 U.S. service members and at least 100 Afghans on Thursday.
Updated: 10:20 p.m.