Six teenage girls from Afghanistan have been left disappointed after the U.S. embassy denied them visas to travel to the first-ever international robotics competition for high school students from across the world, known as the First Global Challenge, due to be held in Washington, D.C. this month.
Although the girls were denied visas, their robot — a ball-sorting contraption machine — would be allowed to be sent to compete in the event. Graduate students from Carnegie Mellon University, Pennsylvania, helped the students to program their robot.
According to local media reports, the six girls twice trekked around 500 miles from Herat, a western city in Afghanistan, to the American embassy in Kabul to apply for the one-week travel visas. But after a series of interviews, their applications were rejected by U.S. officials. The aspiring inventors reportedly wept when they heard they couldn’t escort their machine to Washington.
Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female technology boss, confirmed that the girls have been crying all day since their applications were rejected. She said the decision to deny the girls entry into the U.S. for the competition has demoralized the spirit of the teenagers. The girls are now left with no choice than to appear at the event via video link from Herat, she added.
One of the disappointed girls, Fatemah, told Forbes: “We want to show the world we can do it, we just need a chance.”
When news broke concerning the plight of the girls, some observers in the U.S. took to Twitter to register their displeasure.
I feel safer now that we’ve denied a once in a lifetime opportunity to a group of girls whose country we’ve been bombing since their birth. https://t.co/55bR2pFBPq
— Jonathan Blanks (@BlanksSlate) June 30, 2017
Girls literally risk their lives to get an education in Afghanistan. This is reprehensible and counterproductive. “Winning hearts & minds”
— Samantha (@SamanthaRant) July 1, 2017
Also, former vice president of communications for Verizon, Anthony Citrano called the decision “infuriating”. Most of these concerns were triggered due to the fact that the Afghanistan team was all-girl. Observers believe their presence at the competition would have encouraged more Afghanistan girls to venture into science, mathematics, engineering and technology related courses.
Apart from the girls from Afghanistan, other students from Gambia, a small nation in West Africa were also denied visas for the event. However, students from Iran, Iraq, and Sudan were granted visas. These three countries are among the Muslim-majority countries Donald Trump imposed travel ban on.