A team of robot-making teenagers in Afghanistan won't get to travel to the United States with their invention this month
A group of teen girls from Afghanistan will have to sit out of an international robotics competition this July.
Why? The team of six teenagers were denied travel visas to the United States — twice.
“We want to show the world we can do it,” 14-year-old Fatemah told Forbes. We just need a chance.”
The second visa denial seems to be the latest in a long list of hurdles for the team, which built a ball-sorting robot to compete in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge in Washington D.C., the Washington Post reports.
The teens, from Herat in western Afghanistan, were forced to build their robot using household materials after their raw materials were held up in customs for months due to fears of terrorist use, according to the Post.
The girls made the 500-mile journey cross-country to the American embassy to interview for their seven-day visas in Kabul — the site of the recent deadly suicide bombing. They made the journey and interviewed twice, only to have their requests denied, Forbes reports.
“The first time [they were rejected] it was very difficult talking with the students,” Roya Mahboob, founder of Citadel and Afghanistan’s first female tech chief executive, told Mashable. “They’re young and they were very upset.”
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Along with Afghanistan, the west African team from Gambia was denied visas as well, according to Forbes.
The Afghan team will watch their robot compete via Skype and event organizers plan to play a short video of the team at the competition to honor the girls’ efforts, according to Mashable.
“In Afghanistan, as you know it’s a very man-dominated industry,” Mahboob, who put the team together, told Mashable. “The girls, they’re showing at a young age that they can build something.”
The news comes as a revised version of Donald Trump‘s refugee ban has gone into effect. The new, partial ban targets six, majority Muslim countries: Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria and Yemen, according to the New York Times.
While the girls’ visas were denied, Trump had previously championed women getting involved in STEM and, in February, he signed two laws aimed at encouraging women and girls to get involved in the STEM fields.