After Months of Work, All-girls Robotics Team From Afghanistan Denied U.S. Entry Visas

In order to apply for entry visas, the girls traveled 500 miles from their home city of Herat in Western Afghanistan to the American Embassy in Kabul twice

Team Afghanistan pose for a group photo in headscarves featuring their country's colors.
First Global website

An all-girls robotics team from Afghanistan had to give up on their hopes of competing in an international robotics challenge in Washington this month when they were all denied entry visas to the United States.

The girls had been preparing their entry, a ball-sorting robot, for the FIRST Global Challenge for months using household materials to build their motorized machines. Other teams received their raw materials months ago in March, according to the Washington Post, but Afghan customs withheld the teams’ supplies due to terrorism concerns.

In order to apply for entry visas, the girls needed to travel 500 miles from their home city of Herat in Western Afghanistan to the American Embassy in Kabul. They made this journey twice, according to a Washington Post report from yesteday, and were heartbroken when they found out their applications had been denied.

Roya Mahboob, one of the team’s sponsors and Afghanistan’s first female CTO, said that the girls “were crying all day” when they heard the news.

“The first time [they were rejected] it was very difficult talking with the students,” Mahboob told Mashable. “They're young and they were very upset.”

“In Afghanistan, as you know it’s a very man-dominated industry,” Mahboob said, according to Newsweek. “The girls, they’re showing at a young age that they can build something.”

This year’s FIRST Global Challenge focused on clean water, and teams were tasked to build robots that could “complete a variety of engineering tasks focused on ‘access to clean water.'” Tasks included “the storing of drinkable water, filtering of contaminated water, and procuring of new sources of water.”

On their competition page, the girls wrote:

We want to make a difference, and most breakthroughs in science, technology, and other industries normally start with the dream of a child to do something great. We want to be that child and pursue our dreams to make a difference in peoples' lives.