Teenagers denied visas for robotics competition to compete via Skype

For the first time, an all-girls group of teenagers from Afghanistan will be competing in First Global's International Robotics Challenge in Washington D.C.

Only the girls won't actually be there because their visa applications were denied.

Roya Mahboob, Afghanistan’s first female tech CEO, brought the girls together for the project.

The girls told Fox 5 they're upset and angry they aren't able to participate.

On two separate occasions, they traveled 500 miles to the American Embassy in Kabul, a site near several recent suicide attacks for visa interviews, but were ultimately denied.

“The first time when the visa was denied, the girls spent the day crying because they didn’t expect that this would happen to them after all of the struggle they went through. They believe America is about freedom, women's rights and women’s empowerment,” said Roya Mahboob.

From the onset, the girls faced obstacles making their robot, because the materials shipped by First Global from the U.S. were held up in Afghani customs for months, leaving them little time to create their project.

Their robot, which can sort balls, will be at the competition in Washington, and the girls will participate via Skype.

While they're disappointed they won't be at the competition, the girls said they're glad they've been able to learn about robotics, and they hope to become the next generation of scientists and role models to other young women in their country.

“These young girls want to be the leaders in science and technology, it doesn't matter if at this competition they couldn’t join in person, we are hopeful for the future,” said Mahboob.

There are teams from more than 100 countries including Sudan and Iran traveling to the event later this month, but only Afghanistan and Gambia's teams were denied visas.

We asked the state department for an explanation but they tell Fox 5 that federal law prevented them from discussing individual cases.

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