Afghanistan's all-girl robotics team blocked from attending STEM competition in U.S.

A one week visa was denied to the six girls

Published July 3, 2017 3:56PM (EDT)

Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team (First Global/Getty/Mark Wilson)
Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team (First Global/Getty/Mark Wilson)

Correction: A previous version of this story inaccurately stated that the team was denied U.S. visas because of President Donald Trump's travel ban. Afghanistan, however, is not one of the seven Muslim-majority nations temporary banned entry into the U.S.

An international robotics competition held in Washington D.C. will be without a team of six teenage girls from Afghanistan.

The organizer of the team, Roya Mahboob, who founded software firm Citadel said the girls were "crying all day" once they discovered they were denied visas. The bad news for the girls is even worse when you consider what they had to do enter the competition — traveling 500 miles twice from their hometown in Herat to the U.S. embassy in Kabul to apply for a one week visa.

There are over 160 teams representing different nations and continents. The Afghanistan team page explains the girls' hopes for themselves and the future of their country.

We are the first robotic team with The Digital Citizen Fund (DCF) based in Herat, Afghanistan. DCF is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization created to empower youth and young women in developing countries to gain access to technology and obtain the necessary skills to succeed in today’s expanding global market...We want to develop and explore our minds and creativity and maybe unveil the genius inside of each one of us. This opportunity would allow us to invent, design, and create things that could possibly allow our community, our lives, and us.

A small silver lining is that the girls will still be able to enter their "ball-sorting contraption" into the Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) challenge.

The first day of events will begin July 16th. The team said it still plans to be present via video.

By Michael Glassman

Michael Glassman is on Salon’s Breaking News team. You can find him on Twitter at @warnkemg

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