Members of a female robotics team from Herat province, leave Kabul to the USA from Kabul Airport, in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Jun 14, 2017.
The all-girls national robotics team who were earlier denied visas to attend an worldwide robotics competition in Washington were given a warm welcome at Dulles global Airport by Afghans and Americans after landing in the United States early Saturday.
One member of the team, Yasamin said: "I thank the U.S officials who supported us and did not forget the people of Afghanistan".
Sestak noted that teams from Iran, Yemen, Sudan, Libya and Syria - all Muslim-majority countries affected by President Trump's executive order restricting entry to the United States - were granted visas for the competition. Trump's personal intervention earlier in the week using a rare "parole" mechanism to sidestep the visa system ended a dramatic saga in which the team twice traveled from their home in western Afghanistan through largely Taliban-controlled territory to Kabul, where their visa applications were denied twice.
State Department officials do not comment on individual visa cases, but experts speculated that consular officers could have denied the visas out of concern that the girls could attempt to remain in the United States. The choice to issue visas to the Afghan group takes after a comparable inversion concerning a group from Gambia, which was at first banished from entering the US.
Organizer Ali Reza Mehraban of the Digital Citizen Foundation said the decision meant "supporting peace and women of Afghanistan, who have been deprived of everything for the past forty years".
"It's not as if he heard the story of these Afghan girls and said to himself, Huh, maybe I was wrong about needing a 'total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States,'" Bosch continues.
It points to a Human Rights Watch report from July 7 that highlights the team's efforts to visit the US and enter the competition. "Despite all the deprivations we have, we can prove that we have something to do and raise our voice in the world". Embassy staff complimented them, Mehraban said, but told them they had run out of the visas.
In the short time since their visa dilemma drew global attention, the girls' case has become a flashpoint in the debate about Trump's efforts to tighten entrance to the USA, including from many majority-Muslim countries.
Qaderian said Afghanistan lacked schools and facilities to adequately train engineers and that she hoped she could one day study overseas. "This is such an important trip for us", she said.
"I will do whatever I can for my country".