Over the past week, an Oklahoma woman named Allyson Reneau has been going on a media tour telling various outlets that she is responsible for helping rescue the Afghan all-girl robotics team from Kabul amid the Taliban’s takeover in Afghanistan.
To that, the team’s lawyer has to say: Not quite.
Kim Motley, a lawyer for the team’s parent organization the Digital Citizen Fund (DCF), sent a cease-and-desist letter to Reneau on Wednesday telling her to quit taking credit for the girls’ evacuation to Qatar and putting them and their families at risk by running her mouth, per the Washington Post.
“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. “It is highly unfortunate that you would use such a tragically horrible situation … for what appears to be your own personal gain.”
The story that Reneau — who had met some members of the team at a 2019 space conference — recounted was that, upon hearing the news of Kabul’s fall to the Taliban, she wanted to fly directly to Qatar to help save the girls. She didn’t end up doing that, but she said she contacted someone she knew at the U.S. Embassy in Qatar. Together, she told Today.com in a now-heavily rewritten piece, they “worked all night” and for weeks to prepare paperwork so that some of the girls could escape Afghanistan.
“The cries to me for help from women hiding in Afghanistan is great. We are running out of time. God has assembled a Dream Team to rescue as many as we can,” Reneau — who bills herself as a “mother of eleven children” and “international motivational speaker” on her website — shared on August 24 in a public Facebook post about her rescue efforts.
Elizabeth Schaeffer Brown, an adviser for the DCF, rejected the narrative that the team members were “rescued” by American outsiders, saying it was the team’s mentor Roya Mahboob and the Qatari government who had planned and executed the evacuation, the Post reported.
A spokesperson for the Qatari Foreign Ministry had even stronger words against Reneau and the media outlets that peddled her tale: “She took the agency from the girls and she claimed credit … 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.”
Reneau, who has reportedly raised more than $50,000 for her own nonprofit organization from a Facebook fundraiser called “Afghan Girls Rescue Fund,” denied wanting to turn the ordeal “into a media circus,” in a statement to the Post, days after appearing on Glenn Beck’s radio show to discuss her work. She told the Post that she wasn’t fazed by criticism of her actions. “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.
“Apparently, the Washington Post has released a slanderous and untrue story that says I was not involved in helping the Afghan girls escape,” Reneau wrote on her Facebook page today, teasing “HUNDREDS of texts, emails and phone calls” that corroborate her version of the story. “PLEASE SHARE!!!!” she wrote, “And pray for the safety of these precious people.”