Female Afghan Robotics Team Gets Trump Assist

Marsha Scott
July 16, 2017

The six members of Afghanistan's all-girls robotics team have arrived at Kabul airport from their home in Herat in western Afghanistan.

AFGHANISTAN: A team of Afghan girls who had been denied visas to attend a Washington robotics competition spoke of Donald Trump's support Thursday after United States authorities changed course and allowed them to come.

The girls' story has also renewed the focus on the longer-term US plans for aiding Afghanistan's future, as Trump's administration prepares a new military strategy that will include sending more troops to the country where the USA has been fighting since 2001.

The girls will receive their visas after being told President Donald Trump personally intervened to reverse a decision by the U.S. State Department, says team manager Alireza Mehraban. Afghanistan isn't one of the six countries targeted by President Trump's travel ban.

All six girls packed into a small taxicab to head to the U.S. Embassy with their passports in hand to get their U.S. visas.

There isn't an explanation as to why the team was initially rebuffed, but they are now bound for the event thanks to the DHS allowing them to have "parole" status, which means they can enter the United States precisely because of the public benefit their mere presence would garner for the nation, via the report.

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"Seventeen years ago, this would not have been possible at all", said Afghan Ambassador Hamdullah Mohib. One team from each country is invited to participate, like an Olympics of high school robot builders.

The girls from Herat, Afghanistan, ages 14 to 16, became a cause celebre this week when news spread that their visa applications, first submitted in May, had been rejected. "Go girls!", tweeted U.S State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

The Taliban, ousted by the USA -led coalition in 2001, denied schooling to girls when they ruled the war-torn country.

HRW explained that, previously, the team would have been relegated to competing via Skype while their hardware made it into the United States.

"Despite all the doom and gloom I have about what the situation is in Afghanistan and how unfair it was, at the end of the day, in this moment I'm just thrilled to bits that six girls are going to Washington", Barr said.

The six-girl team and their chaperone completed their journey just after midnight from their hometown of Herat, Afghanistan, to enter their ball-sorting robot in the three-day high school competition starting Sunday in the US capital.

Other reports by MaliBehiribAe

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