Here's The Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Gleefully Showing Off Their US Visas

Afghan girls fly to US for robotics fair

The six members of Afghanistan's all-girls robotics team have arrived at Kabul airport from their home in Herat in western Afghanistan. But Mohib said that based on discussions with US officials, it appears the girls were rebuffed due to concerns they would not return to Afghanistan.

But the United States president urged a reversal following public outcry over the Afghan girls' inability to attend the event, according to U.S. media, with the decision announced Wednesday.

The U.S. embassy in Kabul had denied visas for the girls earlier this month for unknown reasons. Afghanistan isn't one of the six countries targeted by President Trump's travel ban.

Officials may have been wary of granting visas to the girls for fear that they would end up staying in the USA, as other students and academics on temporary visas have done before. If the girls had not been able to attend, they would have watched their robot, which was cleared for entry to the United States, compete over Skype.

Mehraban said it had been especially hard to find girls in deeply conservative, war-torn Afghanistan whose families would allow them to take part.




"Seventeen years ago, this would not have been possible at all", said Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib. Ultimately the State Department, which adjudicates visa applications, asked the Homeland Security Department to let them in on "parole", a temporary status used only in exceptional circumstances to let in someone who is otherwise ineligible to enter the country. One team from each country is invited to participate, like an Olympics of high school robot builders.

"We want to take the message of peace to America and convey that Afghanistan is not only the country of war, and there are girls who chase their dreams in robots and education", added Fatema Qaderyan.

"I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences", said First Global President Joe Sestak in a statement.

The girls are working on a robot that can sort balls, which will compete against 163 other machines in a tournament called the FIRST Robotics Competition.

State Department officials do not comment on individual visa cases, but experts speculated that consular officers could have denied the visas out of concern that the girls could attempt to remain in the United States.

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