A group of five Afghan women landed in Mexico City Tuesday after being granted refugee status.
The women, members of a robotics engineering team, expressed their gratitude to the Mexican government and said they looked forward to a bright future.
“We extend to you the warmest welcome on behalf of all Mexicans,” said Foreign Affairs Secretary Marcelo Ebrad as he greeted the women during a news conference in Mexico City’s airport.
Reaction to the news has been mostly positive. But the irony of Mexico positioning itself as a safe haven for women was not lost.
Despite rhetoric to the contrary by President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, violent crimes against women have been on the rise during the past few years. Furthermore, several high-profile cases involving the death of women at the hands of authorities have made international headlines.
In March a woman from El Salvador, Victoria Esperanza Salazar Arriaza, lost her life in Tulum during a violent altercation with the police. The case garnered much international attention for its brutality and similarities to the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
The robotics team, made up of women and girls as young as 14, has won several international awards for their pragmatic and open-source approach to problem-solving. For example, during the past year, the team developed a low-tech ventilator to help treat COVID-19 patients.
Mexico has not granted any other Afghan refugees asylum in the country, leading critics of the government to argue that the case of the robotics team is nothing more than a public relations stunt pulled off by the government.
Scores of refugees have opted to escape Afghanistan after the Taliban seized power following the withdraw of the United States from the country.