After Visa Denials, Afghan Girls Can Attend Robotics Contest in US

Team Afghanistan – FIRST Global

Despite traveling hundreds of miles to the capital of their war-weary country two times, their visas were denied by the U.S. State Department for unknown reasons twice.

Girls whose visa applications were rejected twice finally given green light to travel to global robotics contest.

"After going through the visa process twice, the U.S. State Department subsequently granted the team entry to the United States", FIRST Global, the organization behind the robotics competition, said in a statement.

As a result, all 163 teams from 157 countries are able to participate in the event being held on July 16 in Washington DC.

The US State Department declined to comment on why the girls' visa application had previously been denied.

President Trump reportedly pressed National Security Council officials for a solution, and they eventually agreed to allow the team in on "parole".

In the end, the girls were granted entry through "parole", a process by which United States Citizenship and Immigration Services may temporarily authorize otherwise ineligible visitors on humanitarian grounds or because it benefits the public.




Without the reversal, the girls would have had to watch via video link from their hometown in western Afghanistan.

The girls wanted to show the world that Afghans could also construct a hand-made robot and they had been deeply disappointed by the initial rejections.

"We were not a terrorist group to go to America and scare people", 14-year-old competitor Fatema Ghaderyan told AFP in Herat.

"We want to develop and explore our minds and creativity and maybe unveil the genius inside of each one of us", the Afghan girls team wrote on its official page. "We applied again for the U.S. visa and we were rejected again". Farooqi and her teammates worked seven days a week, for six months, to build their robot, and twice made the unsafe 500-mile trip from Herat to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul.

The three-day robotics competition begins Sunday in Washington.

The news that the team had repeatedly been denied visas spurred widespread criticism and backlash. Nevertheless, teams from Syria, Sudan and Iran - countries on the banned list - were allowed to attend.

A student team from Gambia also was granted visas last week after initially being rejected.

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