Afghan girls granted US visas for robotics competition after twice being denied

Posted July 14, 2017

The ban restricts visas to citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries, but Afghanistan is not on the list.

Earlier this month hearts broke for a team of robot-building girls from Afghanistan who were twice denied visas into the United States to attend a robotics competition.

President Trump reportedly pressed National Security Council officials for a solution, and they eventually agreed to allow the team in on "parole".

FIRST Global President Joe Sestak told CNN that the Afghan girls were contacted a few days ago by the American embassy in Afghanistan and informed of the alternative route for getting travel approval.

The Department of State originally denied the Afghan girls visas at least twice, causing some backlash among the public.

Parole is a temporary status in which a person who is otherwise ineligible to enter the country is allowed in temporarily because of an emergency or humanitarian objective, or because it's deemed to be in the public good.

Without the reversal, the team would have had to watch the contest via video link from their hometown in Herat, Afghanistan.

The girls wanted to show the world that Afghans could also construct a hand-made robot and they had been deeply disappointed by the initial rejections.

"We cried a lot after we heard our visa was rejected", added 15-year-old Kowser Roshan.

"We want to develop and explore our minds and creativity and maybe unveil the genius inside of each one of us", reads the Afghan team's introduction on the contest's website.

The three-day robotics competition begins Sunday in Washington. The Washington Post said it was not clear why the team was denied initially. They made the 800-kilometer (500-mile) trek to the U.S. embassy in Kabul twice after their first applications were denied.

A limited version of Trump's travel ban - temporarily barring refugees and visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen - recently took effect, after the US Supreme Court allowed it to be enforced pending a full hearing in October.

While their robot was sent overseas to compete and arrangements were made for them to video-conference in to the event, the team of girls from Western Afghanistan were rejected twice for the necessary visas to attend in-person.