The team of six teenage girls had planned to compete in FIRST Global Challenge, an worldwide robotics competition that will be held in Washington, D.C., in July - but their applications for seven-day travel visas were turned down by the state department after two attempts, Forbes reported Thursday. Journeys of any length have become highly unsafe in Afghanistan with the Taliban holding large swaths of territory across the country and insurgent attacks common across highways.
Mahboob, who founded the software company Citadel, said the girls were "crying all day" after discovering they could not go to the competition.
According to Forbes, the team were expecting to travel to Washington, DC later this month for the event having travelled a distance of 800km from Herat to Kabul to get their one-week visa on two occasions for two rounds of interviews. Considering that the girls literally risked their lives in order to apply for a travel visa and still got rejected, such a reaction was completely understandable.
Afghanistan is not one of the six Muslim majority countries targeted in Donald Trump's travel ban.
Along with Afghanistan, the west African team from Gambia was denied visas as well, according to Forbes.
They made a 1,000-mile round trip to try and secure a week-long visa to visit the US.
On top of that, FIRST Global had sent kits with materials to build their robots in March, but Team Afghanistan's was held up at customs due to terrorism concerns.
In a phone call Monday, FIRST Global President and former Pennsylvania Congressman Joe Sestak said that he was "saddened" to learn that the team's visa applications were denied. The Free Form hit show, The Fosters, chronicled some of the discrimination all girls robotics teams face in their episode "Girl Code".
It's not easy to get robotics equipment through customs in Afghanistan, but that didn't deter this plucky bunch. "They're young and they were very upset".
"In Afghanistan, as you know it's a very man-dominated industry", Mahboob, who put the team together, told Mashable.
'We want to show the world we can do it, ' she said.
According to State Department records, in April 2017, the country gave out just 32 of the B1/B2 brand of business travel visas the girls were trying for. Teams from Iraq, Iran and Sudan will be at the competition.
Team Afghanistan working on their project.