Afghan girls robotics team wins silver, meets Ivanka Trump

After the 6 women were twice denied U.S. visas, President Trump intervened.

ByABC News
July 19, 2017, 2:17 AM

— -- The six Afghan girls who were twice denied U.S. visas before President Donald Trump intervened at the last minute, won a silver medal for "courageous achievement" Tuesday at the robotics competition they traveled thousands of miles to attend.

The young women, who arrived in the U.S. shortly after midnight on Saturday, participated in the inaugural FIRST Global Challenge, in which teams of young women and men from around the world showcase robots they created. The three-day competition kicked off Sunday at Washington, D.C.'s DAR Constitution Hall.

The Afghanistan team's "courageous achievement" recognizes teams that exhibited a "can-do" attitude even under difficult circumstances or when things didn't go as planned. The gold medal in that category went to the South Sudan team and bronze to the Oman team, whose students are deaf.

The competition's top honors went to the Europe team, which won a gold award for getting the most cumulative points over the course of the competition. Poland got silver and Armenia bronze.

The Afghan embassy in Washington tweeted photos of Ivanka Trump meeting the girls, writing, "Our #STEMGirls are doing so well at @F1RSTglobal #FGC2017 that @IvankaTrump had to see. Thanks for supporting #Afghanistan & #womeninSTEM."

The State Department's Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs also tweeted a photo of Ivanka with the Afghan team at the competition.

And Jennifer Korn, special assistant to the president, tweeted photos of the first daughter sitting down with the Afghan team, and at the competition, writing, "Amazing visit 2 @FIRSTweets w/ @IvankaTrump celebrating girls empowerment & STEM at Global Robotics comp & mtg / teams USA & Afghanistan."

The team, from western Afghanistan's Herat region, had twice been denied visas to enter the country by the U.S. State Department, although the reason was never publicly disclosed. Still, many critics pointed to Trump's travel ban executive order and his administration's policies, which some perceive as hostile to some foreigners, for the girls' denial of entry.

But the president stepped in, and the team was soon U.S.-bound.

"The State Department worked incredibly well with the Department of Homeland Security to ensure that this case was reviewed and handled appropriately," Dina Powell, deputy national security adviser for strategy, said in a statement following the president's intervention. "We could not be prouder of this delegation of young women who are also scientists -- they represent the best of the Afghan people and embody the promise that their aspirations can be fulfilled. They are future leaders of Afghanistan and strong ambassadors for their country."

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