Afghanistan's all-girl robotics team lands in DC after visas denied twice

Members of Afghan robotics girls team arrive to receive their visas from the U.S. embassy in Kabul

Clutching Afghan flags and waving to photographers, the schoolgirls boarded a plane in Herat in western Afghanistan Thursday afternoon to begin the long journey to Washington, where they will become the first robotics team to represent the war-torn country overseas.

The all-girls national robotics team who were earlier denied visas to attend an worldwide robotics competition in Washington were given a warm welcome at Dulles global Airport by Afghans and Americans after landing in the United States early Saturday. But Mohib said that based on discussions with US officials, it appears the girls were rebuffed due to concerns they would not return to Afghanistan.

But the U.S president intervened following a public outcry over the Afghan girls' inability to attend the event.

Conway retweeted a story about how early Saturday morning, the Afghani girls - who were twice denied entry to the country by the State Department for reasons that haven't yet been specified - finally arrived in Washington DC to participate in an worldwide competition.

President Trump had banned people from six Muslim countries to come to the United States, but Afghanistan was not included in it.

Mehraban said the girls were selected from among 150 aspiring engineers in Herat, a sprawling province that borders Iran and has been among the more stable parts of Afghanistan in the 16 years since the US -led military invasion. The young engineers will be allowed entry under a protocol known as "parole", in which they will not be given formal visas but can remain in the United States for no more than 10 days. It is still unclear why the applications were rejected in the first place.

"Seventeen years ago, this would not have been possible at all", Mohib told reporters. If the girls had not been able to attend, they would have watched their robot, which was cleared for entry to the United States, compete over Skype.

CNN reports the Afghan-American team that would have competed in their honor will still walk in with the all-girls team as a show of solidarity at the Opening Ceremonies.

"It's a happy moment for our team", Mehraban told the AP.

"We continued working on our robots to show that Afghan girls are capable of doing big things", Mehraban said. Teams from over 150 countries will be participating.

It points to a Human Rights Watch report from July 7 that highlights the team's efforts to visit the US and enter the competition.

"I truly believe our greatest power is the power to convene nations, to bring people together in the pursuit of a common goal and prove that our similarities greatly outweigh our differences", he said.

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