Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Arrives in US

Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Arrives in US

Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Arrives in US

The six members of Afghanistan's all-girls robotics team have arrived at Kabul airport from their home in Herat in western Afghanistan.

When Afghan 10th-grader Fatemeh Qaderian learned that her girls' robotics team had been denied visas to attend an global competition in Washington - despite applying twice - the 14-year-old said she "lost hope".

One member of the team, Yasamin said: "I thank the U.S officials who supported us and did not forget the people of Afghanistan".

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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, global undergraduate and graduate students, scholars, and scientific collaborators may be discouraged from coming to the United States".

However, the US State Department had earlier declined to comment on why the Afghan team's visa applications were denied, saying that "all visa applications are adjudicated on a case-by-case basis in accordance with USA law". Afghanistan isn't one of the six countries targeted by President Trump's travel ban.

Politico notes the move to grant the Afghan team status to enter the country comes after sweltering condemnation over their refused visas. The young engineers will be allowed entry under a protocol known as "parole", in which they will not be given formal visas but can remain in the United States for no more than 10 days.

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CNN reports the Afghan-American team that would have competed in their honor will still walk in with the all-girls team as a show of solidarity at the Opening Ceremonies. If the girls had not been able to attend, they would have watched their robot, which was cleared for entry to the United States, compete over Skype. It is still unclear why the applications were rejected in the first place. Several years ago, Shaheen said, 12 female university lecturers won scholarships to obtain master's degrees in economics in Germany. The decision would allow the six girls from the war-torn country into the USA, along with their chaperones, so they can participate in the competition.

Organizer Ali Reza Mehraban of the Digital Citizen Foundation said the decision meant "supporting peace and women of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of everything for the past forty years".

It points to a Human Rights Watch report from July 7 that highlights the team's efforts to visit the USA and enter the competition. "Go girls!", tweeted State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert.

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