Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Wins Entrepreneurial Challenge At Europe's Biggest Robotics Festival

Afghan girls robotics win in Estonia 12-1-17.png

Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Wins Entrepreneurial Challenge At Europe's Biggest Robotics Festival

We are SO PROUD of the girls' robotics team from Afghanistan, the group of young women who were front and center on AOC when they were denied visas to the US to participate in an international robotics competition. 

Honored in Washington DC for their determination and moxie, the Afghan girls have now won an international robotics prize on merit. The Afghan teens who live in the western city of Herat applied to and won the Entrepreneurial Challenge at the Robotex festival, the largest robotics festival in Europe, held in Tallin, Estonia, on Nov. 24-26. The proud announcement was made through the Afghan embassies in London and Washington, and reported in the New York Times.  

“We are extremely proud of the wonderful accomplishments of the Afghan All-Girl Robotics Team,” Afghanistan’s ambassador to the United Kingdom, Said T. Jawad, said in a statement on Wednesday. “They are an excellent example for people around the world of what can be accomplished by young Afghans if given the right support and the opportunity to excel in their education.”

Afghan Girls Robotics Team Awarded Silver Medal For 'Courageous Achievement'

Afghan Girls Robotics Team Awarded Silver Medal For 'Courageous Achievement'

On Tuesday July 18, 2017 the Afghan team was awarded a special silver medal for "courageous achievement" at the FIRST Global Challenge. The New York Times added: 

For three days in the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, where an African-American woman was once denied the right to sing before an integrated audience in the 1930s, the Afghan girls in head scarves were stars on an international stage, with cameras, lights and whispers trailing them from practice to competition.

Visa Decision Reversal Brings Afghan Girls Robotics Team To FIRST Global Robotics Competition

Lida Azizi (left) and Kawsar Roshan in Herat, building a self-driving miniature rickshaw decked with Afghan and American flags. Photograph: Sune Engel Rasmussen

Lida Azizi (left) and Kawsar Roshan in Herat, building a self-driving miniature rickshaw decked with Afghan and American flags. Photograph: Sune Engel Rasmussen

Visa Decision Reversal Brings Afghan Girls Robotics Team To FIRST Global Robotics Competition

In the days of Trump, we are learning to accept small wins and tiny pleasures. Progressive women got a dose of pure delight on Wednesday -- Pakistan's heroic Malala Yousafzai's birthday -- when news broke that the US State Dept had reversed its refusal to grant visas to six Afghan female students to travel to Washington DC for the FIRST Global international robotics competition next week. 

The international backlash against an absurd decision that allowed the team from Iran and five other countries listed by the Trump administration in their disputed Muslim ban to come to the competition while denying visas to the Afghan girls team looked like unadulterated sexism by the Trump administration. Countless individuals and organizations accused Trump -- who is rolling back women's rights in America -- of retreating from America's previous efforts that support the education of young women in Afghanistan. 

Gambia, the only other country to be denied a visa, will also be coming to Washington. 

Heartbroken Afghan Girls Science Team Denied US VISAS For FIRST Global Challenge 2017

Heartbroken Afghan Girls Science Team Denied US VISAS For FIRST Global Challenge 2017

Last week the US Supreme Court temporarily approved parts of Trump's travel ban, preventing visitors from Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen from entering the US without an approved family connection, employee or student status or other pre-existing relationship. The Court will issue a full ruling when it resumes its caseload in the fall. 

One of the first casualties of the new travel ban are six teenage girls -- an all-girl robotics team of young engineers from Afghanistan -- determined to participate in an international science competition scheduled for mid-July in Washington, DC.

Denied a one-week travel visa to participate in the FIRST Global Challenge, the team has already risked their lives in Afghanistan, travelling twice under the reality of truck bombings to Kabul in April. The Afghan team members are from Towhid, Malakai Jalalai and Hoze Karbas High Schools. The trip from their small town near Herat to Kabul was to complete their visa applications. Nothing about the scientific competition was easy for these young women. Other global competitors received their box of raw materials in March. When their own box was held up amid concerns about terrorism, the young engineers improvised, building their motorized machines from household materials, writes The Washington Post. 

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan's first female tech CEO and founder of Citadel software, who brought the girls together, told Forbes that the girls "were crying all day." While the exact reason for the visa denial remains confidential, only 112 business travel visa from Afghanistan were granted in May 2017, compared to 780 business travel visas from Iraq and 4,067 from Pakistan.