He Built a Robot to Prove a Point About Refugees

He Built a Robot to Prove a Point About Refugees

“One day I was drinking from a two-liter Coca-Cola bottle and thought, ‘I could use this bottle for a thigh, and I could use a one-liter bottle for the shin.’ I thought I could make a robot using recycled things. It’s very cheap. It’s suitable.”In building Athena, Mr. Karimi also had in mind using her to help disabled children adapt to orthotic devices and exercises.“I wanted to make a robot and fix sensors in the orthotics so that when the child moves his knee, the robot knee moves too,” he said. “I wanted the robot to copy the gait, hand movements, everything.” Beyond that, he added, a robot can makes an injured child happy.Mr. Karimi was born in 1970, the seventh of eight children, and grew up in the Afghan cities of Mazar-i-Sharif and Kabul. His father was a director in the customs office.“I always intended to work as an electrical engineer,” he said. “I love electric work.”But in the mid-1980s, his eldest sister, a doctor, convinced him to study nursing as a way to keep off the front lines. This was the time of the mujahedeen resistance to the Russian occupation. At age 18, Mr. Karimi was drafted by the government and assigned to hospital duty.The Russians left in 1989, and the American-backed mujahedeen overthrew the Communist puppet government in 1992. Mr. Karimi hid for months. “As a government soldier, I would have been killed,” he said. Eventually he set up a small medical shop in Mazar-i-Sharif.Understand the Taliban Takeover in AfghanistanCard 1 of 5Who are the Taliban? The Taliban arose in 1994 amid the turmoil that came after the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan in 1989. They used brutal public punishments, including floggings, amputations and mass executions, to enforce their rules. Here’s more on their origin story and their record as rulers.Who are the Taliban leaders? These are the top leaders of the Taliban, men who have spent years on the run, in hiding, in jail and dodging American drones. Little is known about them or how they plan to govern, including whether they will be as tolerant as they claim to be.What happens to the women of Afghanistan? The last time the Taliban were in power, they barred women and girls from taking most jobs or going to school. Afghan women have made many gains since the Taliban were toppled, but now they fear that ground may be lost. Taliban officials are trying to reassure women that things will be different, but there are signs that, at least in some areas, they have begun to reimpose the old order.A year later, he started work for the U.N.’s Comprehensive Disabled Afghan Project, a program that helped more than 100,000 land mine victims. By the time he fled Mazar-i-Sharif in 2016, he was supervising a team of 14, including seven technicians, in a workshop run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan.

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