Female Afghan robotics team overcomes visa challenges to compete in US
Six Afghan girls almost failed to make it to Washington, DC to participate in the first Global Challenge robotics competition.
The event was in headlines before it kicked off, because the all-girl team from Afghanistan had their US visas rejected twice before a last-minute intervention by US President Donald Trump.
The Afghan girls want to tell the world that even though people may not believe it, Afghan women can make robots too. "We were so interested, because we find a big chance to show the talent and ability of Afghans,” said Rodaba Noori, one of the team members.
The girls' struggle to overcome war, grit, tenacity and visa obligation to the US have made their team stand out among other competitors. Critics had argued that the denial of the visas was the wrong message to the people of Afghanistan, where US-led forces have been helping to fight Taliban extremists for 16 years.
It wasn’t just Team Afghanistan celebrating permission to participate. Team Gambia also had their visas approved last week after being denied the first time.
Days before the competition was to start, the Department of Homeland Security had granted the Afghan team members and their chaperon a “parole,” which allows them a one-time, temporary entry into the country for humanitarian reasons, according to The Washington Post.
President Trump issued a temporary travel ban early in February, saying people from six Muslim majority countries need “close family” relationship in the US to be allowed to enter the country. However, as Afghanistan isn't on the travel ban list, the visa denial, unaccountable as seen by many, was done without any explanation.