“Afghan Dreamers” Focuses On The Resilience of An All-girls Robotics Team Competing Under Taliban Rule

by Ashley Latcha

Executive producer Sheila Nevins and Oscar-winner Ellen Goosenberg Kent helped to create the award-winning MTV documentary film Afghan Dreamers which debuted on Tuesday.

The powerful film, directed by David Greenwald, focuses on the story of five incredibly talented high school girls from Herat, Afghanistan who prove that working hard is sometimes not enough for women in a country where men dictate the rules. Courage, ambition, and optimism for the future of Afghanistan helped to encourage Fatemah Qaderyan, Lida Azizi, Somaya Faruqi, Kawsar Roshan, and Saghar Salehi into becoming the most famous all-girls robotics team.

The story of The Dreamers began five years ago at Mehri Herawi High School in Herat. The girls realized their passion for science and technology, and after becoming finalists in a province-wide exam, the Afghan Girls Robotics Team was born.

After getting their Visas denied twice with Donald Trump spewing his executive action on new measures to “keep radical Islamic terrorists out of the United States”, the team’s persistence gained the attention of the entire world.

“We’re not terrorists who Americans should be afraid of,” Fatemah said. “We just want to show our abilities.”

Eventually, they boarded a plane heading to the States to participate in their first overseas competition. The doors to opportunity were held wide open for them after that. They had become the faces of resilience after their Visa battle and proved to the world how talented they are by winning silver at their first international robotics competition. Over 500 girls in Afghanistan signed up to join the robotics team after their return.

Their new fame gained the team invitations to compete in many other countries including Mexico and Dubai. During competitions, they created prototypes of robots that could pick up plastic colored balls to represent cleaning debris from the ocean and met tons of influential icons, including Anousheh Ansar, the first Muslim woman to visit outer space. However, the girls and their families worried more about their safety back home.

Anousheh Ansar with the Afghan Girls Robotics Team in Dubai

“It’s important to remember that when these girls were born, women were not allowed to get an education in Afghanistan,” said former California Representative Susan Davis.

The majority of Afghanistan citizens still hold onto preconceived notions about women and their role in society which offered some cruel and upsetting feedback that these teenage girls had to endure. With fear, doubt, and grief surrounding their everyday lives, The Dreamers continued to pursue their goal of creating a better future for their country through the power of technology.

However, Taliban supporters were definitely not rooting for these women in S.T.E.M. no matter how gifted or hardworking they proved to be. After they reclaimed Afghanistan in 2021, the Taliban ended up banning girls over the age of 12 from going to school, erasing almost 20 years of progress toward women’s rights in an instant.

The film provides a visceral feeling of watching a hopeful generation starting to grow in a developing nation before chaos completely shatters their dreams.

The Islamic fundamentalist group seized control over the Afghan military and deemed The Dreamers as infidels. They decided the girls should be killed and have been searching for each of them. As a result, the girls were forced to escape their homes and live abroad with their locations undisclosed to protect their safety.

“We know things are difficult. Don’t lose hope. We’ll raise our voices on your behalf, and fight for your freedom” is the last message The Dreamers sent out for all of the girls and women that are currently living under Taliban rule in Afghanistan. Even though the documentary does not offer a traditional happy ending, the journey of The Afghan Girls Robotics Team should be shared everywhere in order to emphasize courage among all women and shine a hopeful light on the next generation in Afghanistan.

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