This All-Girl Robotics Team From Afghanistan Was Denied U.S. Visas

By Duchess Magazine

An all-girl robotics team from Afghanistan will have one of their inventions competing in the FIRST Global Challenge held in Washington, D.C. But according to Forbes, they won’t be able to attend—despite having risked their lives not once, but twice to get the necessary visas.

The six teenagers come from Herat, a city in the western part of Afghanistan. To apply for the business visa that would allow them come to the U.S. for seven days—enough time to see the international competition through—they had to travel 500 miles to Kabul, a city that’s recently seen suicide attacks and a truck bombing that was one of the deadliest strikes of the Afghan War. Despite being denied the first time, they went again: according to Forbes, they hoped that doing another round of interviews would help their case.

Unfortunately, they were rejected yet again. The visa is a hard one to get: Forbesreports that State Department records show that only 32 of the visas needed were issued in Afghanistan last year. And they’re not the only ones unable to attend: the team from Gambia also wasn’t able to get the necessary visas, although those from Iran, Iraq, and Sudan were.


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The bright side? The robot they’ve designed doesn’t need a visa—and it’ll still be attending the competition, which takes place during the middle of the month.

“It’s a very important message for our people,” Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO, Roya Mahboob, told Forbes. “Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan.”

The girls, who were brought together by Mahboob, are working to finish their creation as quickly as possible. But time hasn’t been on their side: they only received the materials for their robot three weeks ago, after they were held up for months in customs thanks to ISIS’ use of robotics. With time ticking away quickly, they’ve been assisted along the way with programming by grad students at Carnegie Mellon.

One of the girls, Fatemah, who’s 14, told Forbes that “we want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance.”

Nevertheless, they persisted.

Want a little extra girl power? Check out this video FIRST put together about the team.

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