Afghanistan's all-girl robotics team denied US visa

Published: July 1, 2017
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Team Afghanistan. PHOTO: FIRST GLOBAL

Team Afghanistan. PHOTO: FIRST GLOBAL

An all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan has been denied US visas to participate in  an international robotics competition happening in Washington DC in mid-July.

The all-girl team representing Afghanistan hails from Herat and were brought together by Roya Mahboob, who founded Citadel software company in Afghanistan and was the country’s first female tech CEO.

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The team will now watch via Skype as their robot competes against creations from over 100 other nations. “I wanted this to happen badly, I really did,” said First Global President Joe Sestak, a former Navy admiral and former member of Congress.”These girls are courageous.”

Event organisers have now planned to play a short video of the team at Constitution Hall to honour their effort.

Team Afghanistan working on their project. Photo: First Global

The six Afghan girls already had trouble with equipment and materials they needed to build their robot. While other teams received kits full of building materials sent by First Global as early as March, Team Afghanistan only got their stuff in the last three weeks after going through extensive security protocol.

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The team also had to travel a roughly 500-mile distance twice to the US embassy in Kabul for visa interviews before being denied the visa. “The first time [they were rejected] it was very difficult talking with the students,” Mahboob said. “They’re young and they were very upset.”

“We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great,” Team Afghanistan wrote on its competition page. “We want to be that child and pursue our dreams to make a difference in peoples’ lives.”

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Mahmood says she doesn’t understand why Afghanistan is among the only two countries denied visa for the competition. However, she hasn’t lost sight of what it means for young girls to create in a society not known for empowering women.

Team Afghanistan working on their project. Photo: First Global

“In Afghanistan, as you know it’s a very man-dominated industry,” she said. “The girls, they’re showing at a young age that they an build something.”

This article originally appeared on Mashable.

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