- The lawyer for an all-girls Afghan robotics team says Allyson Reneau of Oklahoma overstated her role in their escape from Afghanistan, reported the Washington Post.
- A cease-and-desist order has been sent, with the lawyer saying her media appearances were compromising the safety of other members in Afghanistan.
- Reneau told the Post that she is “above board” and would continue to speak to help other Afghan women.
Allyson Reneau, a mother of 11 from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, made the news last week for helping an internationally acclaimed all-girls Afghan robotics team flee to Qatar from Afghanistan.
But Kim Motley, a lawyer for the Digital Citizen Fund, the parent organization of the all-girls Afghan Dreamers team, has asked Reneau to stop taking credit for their evacuation, reported The Washington Post Thursday, and added that a cease-and-desist order had been sent.
In the letter seen by the Post, Motley accused Reneau of vastly overstating her involvement in the rescue and said that Reneau’s multiple media appearances were compromising the safety of other robotics team members still in Afghanistan.
She first met the team at a Humans to Mars summit in Washington DC in May 2019, she told reporters. When news emerged of the escalating violence in Afghanistan, she said she planned to fly to Qatar and reached out to a friend in the US embassy in Qatar to facilitate their escape.
Qatari Foreign Ministry spokesman Ibrahim AlHashmi told the Post his ministry never worked with her and had harsh words for Reneau.
“She took the agency from the girls, and she claimed credit,” AlHashmi told the Post. “The media let her be a white savior, claiming the girls were saved by her. They 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.”
“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 Motley in a letter sent to Reneau, reported the Post.
“It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain,” wrote Motley, who is also a Digital Citizen Fund board member.
The Digital Citizen Fund decided to make an official statement at this time because of the heightened security risk, Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, Board Member & Communication officer of the group, told Insider.
“The team organizers tried to keep a low profile for security reasons,” she said, adding that “the danger is not just the inaccuracies, but information exposing individuals still in immediate danger.” Brown said she could not give an update on the ongoing operations at this time due to the sensitivity and volatility of the situation.
Besides taking away the attention from the girls, Brown added that Reneau’s actions diminish the work that others are doing to bring the girls to safety.”We’ve been cooperating, coordinating, and working with private citizens, foundations, governments, and it’s a huge effort; a huge collaboration,” she said.
“The issue with the reporting on Allison is this idea that she herself rescued these girls,” she said.
Reneau continues to share messages from women she says are asking her for help on her Facebook page.
“I’m asking a big God to do big things. I will be a voice for the voiceless and hope for the hopeless. My heart breaks when I receive their messages,” she wrote on her Facebook page on August 23.
Reneau told the Post that she wouldn’t stop promoting her story.
“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, adding, “I’m above board, and if you don’t tell the truth, then you have nothing else to show for it.”
Insider has reached out to Reneau and Motley for comment.
Read the full story at The Washington Post.