All-girl Afghan robotics team cleared to compete in United States

Elias Hubbard
July 14, 2017

Fifteen year-old Lida Azizi, one of the team members, was excited at the prospect of traveling to the competition. The girls spent six months building their robot, the AP reports, often working six days a week - and then they had to persuade their parents to let them go, in a country that often discourages girls in science and math.

The case received public backlash when it became public that the team's visa applications to travel to the USA for an worldwide robotics competition were denied twice.

"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 said as she and five teammates arrived in the Afghan capital Kabul on Thursday.

United States authorities had originally refused access to schoolchildren from a number of Muslim-majority nations to participate in the science contest, decisions that followed implementation of stricter visa policies under Trump.

Mehraban says: "It's a happy moment for our team".

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".

An all-female team of Afghan teenagers finally boarded a plane to attend a USA robotics competition Friday, after intervention from President Donald Trump.

"I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences", said Joe Sestak, president of First Global.

The grils will now be able to participate in next week's global competition along with entrants from 157 countries, which also includes Syrian refugees. "We applied again for the USA visa and we were rejected again".

Their manager, Alireza Mehraban, piled their luggage and himself into a second taxicab, while at the airport workers and passengers wondered at the media attention the girls were receiving, unaware of their identities.

"The President of the United States and the people of America supported us in this case, which shows that they have not forgotten us", one competitor, Yasamin Yasinzadah told AFP at the airport in Herat. Teams from Syria, Iran and Sudan - which are on that list - were granted visas to compete.

According to the competition's news release, a team from Gambia has also been approved for travel to the USA after its application for visas was initially denied.

Team member Fatima Qadiryan, 14, was overjoyed to be going to the USA for the competition.

Colvin reported from Washington.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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