Afghanistan’s all-girl robotics team returned Saturday to Kabul after its successful trip to Washington for the FIRST Global Robotics Challenge, and several officials representing the presidential palace welcomed the girls home, calling them role models.
In the ceremony, Abdullah Abdullah, chief executive of the national unity government, said, “Despite the differences between the Afghan and other teams, Afghan girls were able to achieve a silver medal.”
Abdullah promised to facilitate their participation in future competitions.
Teenagers from around the world demonstrated their skills in designing, building and programming robotic devices at the competition. The annual international robotics event aims to build bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions and customs, and to ignite in them a passion for the STEM fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics.
It took an intervention from U.S. President Donald Trump and other officials to allow the girls of the Afghan robotics team to receive visas after two rejections, letting them travel to the United States to participate in the robotics event.
One of their biggest surprises once in Washington? The tight security.
“The security that we see here is not in Herat, Afghanistan,” team member Kawsar Roshan told VOA in Washington during the last day of the competition.
“This is a peaceful city. People are not fighting each other, and it is a friendly environment,” said team member Fatima Qaderian.
Member Lida Azizi said she learned “unity and teamwork” at the robotics competition.
The team made it to Washington only a day before the event began. U.S. Embassy in Kabul had refused their initial visa applications, but were granted entry to the country after the intervention by high-level U.S. officials.
On Tuesday, Trump’s eldest daughter and a senior adviser, Ivanka Trump, visited he team and its sponsors. She had previously tweeted that she was looking forward to welcoming them.
Ayub Khawreen of VOA’s Afghan service contributed to this report.