Afghan robotic team of girls denied US visa

Robotics is almost everywhere, and it is not surprising to see a team of six teenage girls has created a robot that will be fighting in the FIRST Global Challenge to take place in Washington DC in mid-July. But things have changed since the team’s visa application has been rejected by US authorities.

Visa denied, and no reasons revealed

It is not easy to apply for US visas in Afghanistan, and it was especially not easy for these teenage girls who traveled all the way from Herath, where they belong, to the city of Kabul, to visit the American embassy for visa application.

Unfortunately, their efforts were to no avail as their application was rejected and the US embassy did not reveal any particular reason to have done so on the grounds of confidentiality.

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Kabul – an uncertain territory

Kabul has had a rough past since a number of terrorist attacks have taken place in the region along with the recent truck bombing killing around 90 people. Perhaps so, the visas were not issued to these innocent girls who ventured twice to the embassy and still failed to get them.

The team was put together by Roya Mahboob, who stands as the first female tech leader having founded the Citadel software company in Afghanistan. She says that the girls broke into tears when they heard the bad news.

Team at work

How does it compare with other countries?

The B1/B2 visas are the ones that people usually apply for when they want to travel to the U.S for business purposes. This was the very category for which the girls applied.

Records show that only 32 of these visas were issued to Afghanistan and hence it was quite unlikely for the girls to have made the cut.

On the other hand, Baghdad has issued 138 visas while 1492 were issued to Pakistani travelers.

As far as the competition is concerned, only team Afghanistan and team Gambia were not issued the relevant visas.

Despite the failure, the spirits are up

Even though the girls will not be able to attend the competition, they are, however, determined to win as evidenced by their persistence in making their creation perfect. Around 163 competitors will be competing against each other for the win.

The visas were not the only hurdle that the girls faced. They needed supplies for the robot but were not able to get them on time as the customs did not clear them. The supplies were held up for fear that ISIS might use the technology.

However, the girls kept on going and made parts on their own until the customs gave clearance. Once the supplies arrived, they put the finishing touches to their robot and had help from some students who did the programming.

The little robot developed by the team while they waited for parts to arrive.

Now, even though they will not be present at the conference physically, they will still be able to see their creation amidst the world as they video conference to DC.

One of the team members, Fatimah, who is just 14, stated that she and her team want to show the world that they can do it. All they need is a chance.

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Jahanzaib Hassan