Afghan all-girl robotics team denied entry to USA for competition


Fatemah, a 14-year-old team member, told Forbes that she likes working with robots and creating something new.

An worldwide robotics competition held in Washington D.C. will be without a team of six teenage girls from Afghanistan because of the Trump travel ban.

According to Forbes magazine they've been rejected for the one-week travel visa - despite making the risky 800 kilometre journey twice to Kabul, to the American Embassy, to be interviewed. They made the journey and interviewed twice, only to have their requests denied, Forbes reports.

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan's first female tech CEO, told Forbes the girls "were crying all the day" after they received notice they would not be present to watch their robot compete among other young tech wizards. The girls say they wanted the chance to make a difference, Mashable reports.

The next hurdle was applying for their Visas to enter the United States. However, it's incredibly hard for Afghan citizens to get visas to travel to the US.

The U.S. State Department does not comment on visa applications, but teams from Iran, Iraq and Sudan were granted visas, even though these countries are included in the partially reinstated travel ban on several Muslim-majority countries.

A total of 163 machines are expected to take part in the First Global Challenge, its inaugural robotics event, but the Afghanistan entry is just one of two team denied visas, the other being from Gambia. It may be due to the overall difficulty of securing a visa in Afghanistan.

The all-girl team, which was to represent the country in the competition, comes from Herat, a populous city in western Afghanistan.

Joe Sestak, FIRST Global President and former congressman, has stated that he was disappointed at the rejection of the Afghanistan Team's travel visas.

Speaking to Forbes magazine, Mahboob said: "It's a very important message for our people".

According to State Department records, in April 2017, the country gave out just 32 of the B1/B2 brand of business travel visas the girls were trying for.

We are the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based in Herat, Afghanistan.

'We want to show the world we can do it, ' she said. "The girls, they're showing at a young age that they can build something".

The girls were notified by competition officials that they will instead be able to Skype into the event and show off their creations over the web.

But their inability to be there in person isn't stopping the team from entering their ball-sorting robot, despite other setbacks.