An all-female team of aspiring robotics enthusiasts from Afghanistan would not be making it to the FIRST Global Challenge in Washington DC later this month. The girls, who have been rejected twice for a one-week travel visa to the United States, would be sending their creation to the United States instead, where it would compete against other robots created by other teenage teams from across the globe.
The team of six female Afghan inventors had hoped to accompany their ball-sorting robot to the United States personally. Hailing from Herat, a city of 500,000 in the western region of the Middle Eastern country, the girls had to risk life and limb to reach the American embassy in Kabul, according to a report from the Independent. Over the past few months, Kabul has been witness to acts of violence, with several suicide attacks and a truck bombing last June that claimed 90 lives.
Despite the risk, however, the all-female team of inventors decided to try their luck at the U.S. embassy anyway. Unfortunately, every one of them was denied. The teenagers tried a second time, hoping that the results would be different. Officials in the United States embassy, however, decided to reject the Afghanistan team’s application for a seven-day visa once more, effectively crushing any hope that the girls could compete in person in the FIRST Global Challenge.
Roya Mahboob, founder of Citadel, a software firm, stated that Team Afghanistan was “crying all day” after their visa applications were rejected a second time, according to a Forbes report. Considering that the girls literally risked their lives in order to apply for a travel visa and still got rejected, such a reaction was completely understandable.
“It’s a very important message for our people. Robotics is very, very new in 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. The former congressman also described the girls as “extraordinarily brave.”
The United States embassy in Afghanistan has not released any statement to date about the denial of the Afghanistan Team’s travel visas. However, the fact that the U.S. has granted only 32 B1/B2 business travel visas from Afghanistan by April 2017 is indicative of the America’s hesitation to accept visitors from the war-torn Middle Eastern nation.
For now, the girls are keeping themselves busy calibrating and fine-tuning their robot. Their machine, after all, was not denied entry to the United States. Thus, they could still compete in the FIRST Global Challenge, though the robot and its creators would be in separate countries, with the girls communicating through a video conference.
[Featured Image by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images]