Trump Gives Afghan Robotic Team OK to Compete in US
President Donald Trump gave a team of female Afghan students permission to travel to the United States for a worldwide robotics competition.
The three-day competition begins Sunday in Washington D.C. The U.S. embassy in Kabul had twice denied visas for the Afghan team. It gave no reasons for the rejections.
After word that the team had been denied permission to travel to the U.S., some protested on social media. Some members of the U.S. Congress asked the Trump administration to allow the students into the country.
VOA White House bureau chief, Steve Herman, reported that Trump gave the Afghan team what is known as a "parole." It allows the team's six teen-age members to visit the U.S. for 20 days.
Joe Sestak, a former U.S. Navy admiral and congressman, is president of First Global, the organizer for the robotics competition.
Sestak praised the Trump administration for finding a way to admit teams from Afghanistan, as well as Gambia, Yemen, Libya, and Vanuatu.
He said, "I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene, to bring nations together where people find what they have in common is greater than their differences."
It took a lot just to get the Afghan team members to the competition. Many girls in Afghanistan are denied the chance to go to school.
The team members worked for six months on their robot, often seven days a week. Their robot sorts balls, and can recognize orange and blue colors, the Associated Press reported.
They traveled 800 kilometers from their homes to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul twice to apply for visas. That in itself could be dangerous. On March 31, a car bomb exploded near the embassy. The explosion killed more than 150 people and injured 400 others.
The girls arrived in Kabul Thursday for the long airplane trip to the United States. The team members were excited.
"I am very happy. This is such an important trip for us," said team member, Lida Azizi.
Sestak said teams from Iraq, Sudan and Cuba are competing, as well as teams from rural areas of Latin America. Teams from 40 Muslim majority countries are also expected to compete, he said.
In all, high school teams from 157 nations are expected at the competition. First Global hopes to make it a yearly event.