The Afghan female robotics team will have to watch the first international robotics competition in Washington via Skype following the U.S embassy’s decision to deny them visas.
The FIRST international robotics competition is expected to be held in Washington next week.
“We were very worried when we received a negative response, the entire team was disappointed, because we will not be able to attend the competition,” said Lida a member of the Afghan National Robotics Team.
“We wanted to show that despite having limited resources we succeeded to create these robots and can compete against other countries,” said another member, Fatana Qadiryan.
The competition, which starts on July 16, is the FIRST Global Challenge - a robotics Olympics dreamed up by Dean Kamen, inventor of the Segway.
He founded FIRST - For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology - a program to motivate students in science, technology, and engineering - in 1989.
Robotics teams from 162 countries are expected to attend the competition in the United States.
“When we visited the U.S embassy in Kabul, the U.S embassy told us that they can’t issue B1 and B2 visas which are issued to the Afghan nationals, because we are participating in the competition; but these visas are issued to other nationals,” said Ali Reza Mehraban, a trainer of the National Robotics Team.
“When we were denied the visas, some of our team members cried, but we did not lose hope and instead continue our efforts to make robots and to send them to the U.S,” said Summaya Farooqi, a member of the robotics team.
The team from Afghanistan - and its robot - will now be represented by Afghan-American students who have been recruited from Washington high schools. The same will be done with the Gambian team, which, like the Afghan girls, will be participating via Skype.
“There is success behind each failure, we consider it a success, because we will try harder and harder,” said Kosar, a member of the robotics team.
Visa denial to the Afghan and Gambian teams sparked strong reactions in the U.S. Some U.S senators said that they will follow up the visa denial with the department of state.
The U.S’s move comes at a time that America is grappling with the legality of President Donald Trump’s order to temporarily ban travel of people from six Muslim majority countries. However, despite Afghanistan not having been included on the list, the U.S has issued visas to the robotics teams from Syria and Iran - which are on the travel ban list.