No, The Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Is Not A Threat To America

No, The Afghan Girls' Robotics Team Is Not A Threat To America

The robot they built will be in the U.S., but the Afghan all-girls team behind it was denied entry.

FIRST Global hosts a yearly international robotics challenge, encouraging rising STEM leaders to engage in an "Olympics-style" robotics event that "builds bridges between high school students with different backgrounds, languages, religions, and customs." This year, Afghan girls do not have that bridge extended to them.

The team of six teenage girls from Herat, Afghanistan were meant to receive raw materials for their project from the U.S. in March, but amidst concerns of terrorism, the materials were delayed for many months. Nevertheless, the group built a motorized ball-sorting robot using household materials, and on their profile for the competition, they wrote: "As a dedicated group of students, mentors, and volunteers, we aim to transform the culture of our community through the STEAM program and become some of the young leaders of science and technology."

They traveled 500 miles from their hometown to the U.S. embassy in Kabul ㅡ where violence has recently surged ㅡ to apply for their visas. Twice, the girls experienced rejection.

The controversy is manifold; the girls have been denied entry, and the State Department has provided no explanation as to why. Granted, State Department records indicate the difficulty in receiving a business travel visa from Afghanistan; only 112 were given in May, whereas 1,091 were provided to Iran. Assumptions have been made linking their denial to the ever-debated travel ban, but countries on the ban list have been granted visas, including Sudan, and Iran. Only Afghanistan and Gambiaㅡanother predominantly Muslim country ㅡ have been kept from the event.

Joe Sestak, president of FIRST Global and former congressman has expressed his frustration with the decision made. However, he defended the efforts of the State Department, claiming that they had ensured the arrival of 156 other teams and provided the team with a fair opportunity. Attempting some form of reparation, Sestak has allowed a group of Afghan girls in the United States to learn to operate the robot submitted by the team and present it for the event. The teams for whom visas have been denied can further view the event via Skype.

Although efforts to accommodate the girls are admirable in intent, they hardly compensate for the reality of the situation. Afghanistan has seen women banned from school, from working outside their homes, and from leaving home without male relatives present. Being able to contribute to this competition demonstrates the drastic progress that the country has seen, as well as the hope that persists amidst Taliban insurgency controlling 40 percent of territory there.

It is difficult to see this story as removed from the circumstances and mindset of a post-9/11 world. The injustice the girls have faced should be remembered not only for their resilience, but for the progress we have yet to see. With or without the reasoning of the State Department, they are youths not unlike those of any other country; their efforts are ones of aspiration, not of threat.

Cover Image Credit: ErikaWittlieb / Pixabay

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He Changed Everything.

My soul is richer & my heart is fuller 

Sept 2013 I found myself writing to an evangelist Jennifer Beckham looking for more, looking for answers cause at the time I was in a dark place, and stuck no matter what I did. She wrote back! I cried as I read her respond. She sent me scriptures of who god is and what he wants for us. God says we are more than conquers and endurance develops strength and character. She encouraged me that I was on the right track. Not to give up and she would be praying for me. I saw Jennifer Beckham at a conference that year. I don't remember what she specifically talked about but I remember the feeling. The feeling of wanting to burst out crying, I could feel my eyes being filled with tears, and my heart racing but I wouldn't let out the tears. My pride was too big. I wanted to be strong so I did my best to hold it all in, and I did. At this conference they offered the audience who wanted to go up for prayer and dedicate their life to Jesus Christ. Surprisingly I went up, but I went up with other people that were seeking out salvation. I wasn’t sure if I was going up to support the other people or if it was truly for me. I was confused, even though I said the prayer. I became more confused as the days went on and I wasn't feeling a difference in my life. Nothing was changing. I started reading the bible and many books, listening to sermons, and surrounding myself with positive people. I gave my life to Jesus, but I didn't feel like I was set FREE! I continued feeling empty, lost, broken, guilty, and hurt from the past. There were so many days where I just wanted to give up. Almost felt pointless to fight for my life. At this point in my life I didn't know God very much, but I had just a little bit of faith. My faith was as big as a mustard seed and God took care of the rest. Day by day, year by year I started noticing my life changing. I noticed I was changing. I started feeling happy with who I was and where I was in life. I no longer questioned God about the things that happened to me. In my heart I was ok with the wounds, the hardships, and trials from the past because I now understood those wounds and trials. I realized I was SET FREE! not perfect but set free. I started understanding who I was as a child of our heavenly father. Now it’s Jan 2018 and I’m in awe of who I am and where I am in life, all because of Jesus. His so faithful! I think of the favor, the grace, his mercy, his love, his joy and blessing that he gives me even when I’m undeserving of it, it’s overwhelming. He has never left me nor forsake me. I can say Jesus you changed everything and my heart so forever thankful. 

Today, I encourage you like Jennifer Beckham encouraged me. Keep going and don't give up. No matter what your past looks like believe in your heart that you were created for greatness. Don't let your past determine your future, be the change you want in your life. You have it in you. There is so much more to life, don't miss out on it. It's time to take back your happiness, love, joy, freedom and so much more. It's time to take back EVERYTHING the enemy has taken from you. God has made you an overcomer. I speak it right now, that you will be victorious in 2018 and the years to come. Remember, God loves you! 

Psalm 136:26 (AMP) O give thanks to the God of heaven, for his mercy and loving-kindness endures forever!

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