Afghan girls robotics team arrives in Kabul

Team Afghanistan – FIRST Global

Those emotions morphed into elation as Qaderian and her teammates boarded a plane at Kabul International Airport on Friday morning en route to next week's competition, having been granted visas thanks to last-minute intervention by the Trump administration.

Twice rejected for US visas, an all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan arrived in Washington early Saturday after an extraordinary, last-minute intervention by President Donald Trump.

A coalition of academic and educational groups recently wrote to the State Department about Trump's visa crackdown and said, "We are very concerned that if the proposed changes are implemented, worldwide undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and scientific collaborators may be discouraged from coming to the United States".

The group of six, from Herat, Afghanistan, was twice denied visas to attend the Washington, D.C., event, the only team from 162 nations whose application for entry to the United States was rejected by the State Department.

Some might see things differently as a group of gifted people had to have the President of the United States intercede in the proceedings just to compete.

Mehraban said the girls were selected from among 150 aspiring engineers in Herat, a sprawling province that borders Iran and has been among the more stable parts of Afghanistan in the 16 years since the US -led military invasion.

A student team from Gambia also was granted visas last week after initially being rejected. Several years ago, Shaheen said, 12 female university lecturers won scholarships to obtain master's degrees in economics in Germany. AP reports that girls had been deeply disappointed by the initial rejections.

Competing against entrants from more than 150 countries, the girls will present a robot they devised that can recognize blue and orange and sort balls into correct locations. "Go girls!", tweeted State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert. "They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country". On Sunday, the girls will be celebrated by supporters who fought for their right to enter the United States at the Embassy of Afghanistan.

Earlier this month, a team of girls from Afghanistan were getting ready to go to the First Global Challenge robotics competition in the U.S. and, in the process, making history for girls and women in the war-torn country.

"It's a happy moment for our team", Mehraban told the AP.

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