Afghan girls fly to US for robotics fair
A team of six teenage girls from Afghanistan finally boarded a plane to the U.S. on Friday, to attend an international robotics competition after an initial visa rejection decision for them was reversed.
The excited girls hailing from Herat, the third largest city in Afghanistan, took urgent flights to Washington D.C. after they were granted visa by the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Thursday.
They will represent their war-torn country among 157 other countries for a science fair at the Constitution Hall in Washington D.C. on Sunday night.
Roodaba Noori, a member of the team, said they got extremely sad when their visa application was rejected earlier this month.
"But now I am excited, and happy," she said in a quick chat with Anadolu Agency before boarding her flight at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul.
It took intervention by President Donald Trump and his daughter Ivanka Trump to reverse the initial visa rejection.
"I look forward to welcoming this brilliant team of Afghan girls, and their competitors, to Washington D.C. next week!" Trump's daughter, Ivanka Trump, wrote in a statement on Facebook. "These girls represent our world's future scientists, engineers, and innovators!"
On Tuesday, U.S congressman Joe Courtney and congresswoman Suzanne Bonamici sent a letter signed by 53 members of the United States House of Representatives to the U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson urging him to issue visas for the girls. The next day, a White House spokesperson confirmed Trump had intervened and ordered U.S. officials to grant the girls visas.
It remains unclear why their visa were initially rejected, but the U.S. administration has imposed a travel ban on most people from six predominantly Muslim countries including Syria and Yemen, but not Afghanistan.
Upon visa rejection, the Afghan girls say they had given up hopes to attend the fair, and had instead braced for joining it via video link.