The Afghan girls robotics team denied entry to US will watch their robot compete over Skype instead

The Afghan girls robotics team denied entry to US will watch their robot compete over Skype instead
Team Afghanistan had hoped to compete in person at the FIRST Global event in July.
Source: FIRST Global
Team Afghanistan had hoped to compete in person at the FIRST Global event in July.
Source: FIRST Global

The all-girls robotic team from Afghanistan that was denied a visa to enter the U.S. will have to watch their robot compete over Skype from thousands of miles away instead, one of the competition organizers said on Monday.

The team of six teenage girls had planned to compete in FIRST Global Challenge, an international robotics competition that will be held in Washington, D.C., in July — but their applications for seven-day travel visas were turned down by the state department after two attempts, Forbes reported Thursday.

In a phone call Monday, FIRST Global President and former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak said that he was “saddened” to learn that the team’s visa applications were denied. “I wanted them to be the team,” he said. “The girls were obviously very disappointed.”

Sestak said that organizers had worked directly with the State Department to try and secure visas for all the youth competitors, but despite their efforts, Team Afghanistan was turned down. A causality, Sestak said, of Afghanistan’s notable low acceptance rate for visas.

The six teens that make up Team Afghanistan are based in the city of Herat. To apply for their visas to travel to the U.S., the team had to travel 500 miles across the country to the American Embassy in Kabul, a city that is often plagued by violence. Still, the girls made the trip not once but twice, returning for a second round of interviews after their first visa applications were rejected.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan
Source: Ahmad Nazar/AP

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO and the woman who organized Afghanistan’s robotics team, said the girls “were crying all the day” when they first heard their visas had been turned down again, Forbes reported.

Mahboob said that founding the team sent an important message in Afghanistan. “Robotics is very, very new in Afghanistan,” she told Forbes.

In their profile on the FIRST Global website, Team Afghanistan wrote, “We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great. We want to be that child and pursue our dreams to make a difference in people’s lives.”

Sestak said that Team Afghanistan will be represented on the ground during the competition by a partner team of young Afghan-American women. Additionally, Team Afghanistan will watch and participate in the event via Skype, Sestak said, noting that organizers were “working hard” to ensure that “they’re a part of it” even from a distance.

And, he said, FIRST Global organizers are already planning efforts to ensure Team Afghanistan can attend next year’s competition in person.

Despite their disappointment, shortly after getting the bad news, Team Afghanistan was hard at work putting the finishing touches on their ball-sorting robot, Forbes reported. Their bot will compete in Washington, D.C., later this month — and they’ll be cheering it on while they watch from a screen.

How much do you trust the information in this article?

Anna Swartz

Anna is a staff writer for Mic covering breaking news. She can be reached at aswartz@mic.com.

MORE FROM

‘New York Times’ interview sparks latest wave of GOP frustration with Trump

The President’s “disturbing” comments on Jeff Sessions and Special Counsel Robert Mueller drew sharp rebukes from his own party.

Jordan Edwards’ mother speaks out after Monday’s indictment of the officer who killed her son

“We will not allow Jordan’s death to be another statistic.”

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”

‘New York Times’ interview sparks latest wave of GOP frustration with Trump

The President’s “disturbing” comments on Jeff Sessions and Special Counsel Robert Mueller drew sharp rebukes from his own party.

Jordan Edwards’ mother speaks out after Monday’s indictment of the officer who killed her son

“We will not allow Jordan’s death to be another statistic.”

Trump keeps saying he wants to “let Obamacare fail.” How would that happen?

There are several ways the administration could sabotage the law, experts said.

AIDS deaths are almost half of what they were in 2005 — but experts worry Trump could reverse that

Trump's proposed budget cuts could be detrimental for those living with HIV.

OJ Simpson granted parole after nine years in prison

After serving nine years in prison for a 2007 armed robbery, OJ Simpson was granted parole in a unanimous vote on Thursday.

Black Lives Matter activists respond to the police shooting of Justine Damond

“Some white people don’t feel the tragedy until one of them is murdered.”