After visa delays, Afghan girls’ robotics team arrives in D.C. for global competition

With two words — “Team Afghanistan” — the crowd in the stands at DAR Constitution Hall erupted into a deafening roar Sunday as the teenage girls made their way onto a sprawling stage, waving their country’s flag and wearing headscarves in matching colors.

Their triumphant entrance on the stage at the FIRST Global Challenge robotics competition marked the end of a long and uncertain journey to the United States. As of last week, their dream of traveling to what has been billed as the “Olympics of Robotics” had been shot down when their visas were denied, despite two grueling trips from their home in Herat, in western Afghanistan, to Kabul for interviews with U.S. State Department officials.

But after their plight made international headlines, President Trump intervened at the last minute to grant the girls passage to the United States, and they arrived Saturday.

Standing in the busy hallway of Constitution Hall Sunday, while her teammates tinkered with their robot nearby, Fatemah Qaderyu said she was elated to finally make it here. The 14-year-old wants to study computer science when she gets older.

“We feel really good that we can show our talents here,” she said. She said she hopes to show the world what girls like her are capable of: “Afghanistan is not just a place of war. Afghan girls can build robots and compete in global competitions.”

The three-day competition draws teams from 157 countries — and some multinational teams representing continents. One group — Team Hope — is composed of refugees. FIRST Global…

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