A great vic­tory for Afghan as girls en­ter ro­bot­ics team in world com­pe­ti­tion

The Hamilton Spectator - - CANADA & WORLD - THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS WASH­ING­TON —

A ro­bot­ics team of six girls from Afghanistan is at­tend­ing an in­ter­na­tional com­pe­ti­tion in Wash­ing­ton af­ter clear­ing visa ob­sta­cles that prompted in­ter­ven­tion from U.S. Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.

The team was the first to be in­tro­duced at an open­ing cer­e­mony Sun­day for the three­day high school com­pe­ti­tion.

They will com­pete against en­trants from more than 150 coun­tries in the FIRST Global Chal­lenge. It’s thought to be the first global ro­bot­ics com­pe­ti­tion de­signed to en­cour­age youths to pur­sue ca­reers in math and sci­ence. A team from ev­ery coun­try in the world was sought.

The Afghan girls are en­ter­ing a ro­bot they made that can rec­og­nize blue and or­ange and sort balls into cor­rect lo­ca­tions. The team was twice re­jected for U.S. visas. They ar­rived in Wash­ing­ton from their home­town of Herat, Afghanistan, early Satur­day af­ter Trump’s last-minute in­ter­ven­tion to side­step the visa sys­tem.

Await­ing them at the gate at Wash­ing­ton Dulles In­ter­na­tional Air­port were a U.S. spe­cial en­voy and Afghan Am­bas­sador Ham­dul­lah Mo­hib. “Seven­teen years ago, this would not have been pos­si­ble at all,” Mo­hib. “They rep­re­sent our as­pi­ra­tions and re­silience de­spite hav­ing been brought up in a per­pet­ual con­flict.

“Th­ese girls will be prov­ing to the world and the na­tion that noth­ing will pre­vent us from be­ing an ac­tive mem­ber of the in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity.” The U.S. won’t say why the girls were re­jected for visas, but some ex­perts spec­u­late it was be­cause there was con­cern they would not re­turn to Afghanistan.

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