Published: Sat, July 15, 2017
World | By Paul Elliott

Afghan girls travel to Washington for robotics competition

Afghan girls travel to Washington for robotics competition

"We were disappointed, and we were feeling bad, but now we are very happy that they have given us a chance to go", 14-year-old Fatemah Qaderyan told Reuters as the girls arrived in Kabul on Friday, bags packed for their trip to Washington, D.C.

It took intervention by President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump to reverse the initial visa rejection.

On Tuesday, U.S congressman Joe Courtney and congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici sent a letter signed by 53 members of the United States House of Representatives to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to issue visas for the girls. Two previous attempts to secure visas, which involved traveling 500 miles to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, had failed.

The journey has been a long one.

The girls' applications for USA visas had been denied twice, but the White House says President Donald Trump intervened and they will be allowed in to participate in the competition. The decision by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services means the six girls from the war-torn country will be allowed in, along with their chaperone, so they can participate in the competition.

The team's robot can sort balls, recognize blue and orange, and move objects to their proper places, according to the AP.

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

As a result, the NSC consulted the State Department and the Department of Homeland Security, which ultimately granted the girls entry into the USA on a temporary "parole" status, meaning they can remain in the country for 10 days without an official visa as long as there is a public benefit to their visit. Several years ago, Shaheen said, 12 female university lecturers won scholarships to obtain master's degrees in economics in Germany.

The girls go to three different high schools in Afghanistan and will be traveling with their team manager, Alireza Mehraban.

Mehraban says: "It's a happy moment for our team". "We are going from a war-torn country and the objective is to show the capability of Afghan women".

"We continued working on our robots to show that Afghan girls are capable of doing big things", Mehraban said.

After much public outcry, the United States government has relented and given a team of Afghan girl robotic engineers the visas to enter a competition.

Over 160 countries will attend the global robotics challenge which will be held in Washington from July 16.

With the final obstacles to their journey removed, the girls can now turn their focus back to robotics.

Organizer Ali Reza Mehraban of the Digital Citizen Foundation said the decision meant "supporting peace and women of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of everything for the past forty years".

So it has come as welcome news that the US Department of Homeland Security has approved their request and the girls will now get the chance to represent their country in the coming days.

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