An all-female high school robotics team from Afghanistan has been denied one-week entry visas to the U.S. — despite having twice made a dangerous 500 mile journey from Herat to the American embassy in Kabul in an effort to ensure that they could travel to Washington, D.C., for the First Global Challenge international robotics competition. As a result, the young girls will have no choice but to watch the competition unfold remotely. According to entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO and one of the organizers of the fledgling girls’ robotics team, the students had been extremely excited to make the trip to the U.S. and “were crying all the day” after hearing that their visas had been denied.
Even before having their visas denied, the girls had been put at an extreme disadvantage after vital parts sent by competition organizers were cleared by customs only three weeks ago. By comparison, teams in other less-Muslim parts of the world had months to prepare for the competition. According to Mahboob, the success of the girls’ robotics team was “a very important message for our people.”
“In Afghanistan, as you know it’s a very man-dominated industry,” Mahboob told the Express Tribune. “The girls, they’re showing at a young age that they can build something.”
According to First Global President Joe Sestak, no reason has been given for the denial of the girls’ visa request, but a team from Sudan and a Syrian refugee team have both been granted visas to attend. Even without the team, the Afghan girls’ robot will still be allowed to travel to the U.S. to compete against hundreds of others at the competition.
Read the full story at Newsweek.