The teenagers received silver medals for their “courageous achievement,” as well as “their can-do attitude.”
In recognition of their perseverance and cultural triumph, the team of Afghan girls who were denied visas to enter the United States — not just once, but twice! — received silver medals. The high school students were competing in the First Global Challenge, a robotics competition based out of Washington D.C.
The New York Times reports that it required international outcry as well as intervention from President Trump himself to allow the team of six to travel to the United States. The girls had their visas rejected by the Department of Homeland Security twice, despite not being from any of the states which are currently subjected to travel bans.
Had the girls not received entry to the U.S., they would have been forced to watch their robot compete via Skype. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case. At the last minute, the White House Staff intervened and encouraged Homeland Security to grant the teenagers visas.
On Tuesday, during the final scoring and award ceremony, the Global judges awarded the girls silver medals for their “courageous achievement,” as well as “their can-do attitude.” Ivanka Trump herself commended the girls for attending. “For many of you who have traveled great lengths to be here, we welcome you,” she said, turning to the Afghan girls. “It’s a privilege and an honor to have you all with us.”
The six teenagers were chosen from an initial roster of 150 applicants. “I am so excited, and very, very happy,” said Ghaderyan, one of the competitors. “I still can’t believe this happened.”
Alireza Mehraban, an Afghan software engineer who is the team’s mentor, made sure to point out that just because one wears a hijab or is from the Middle East does not mean they are a terrorist. “We’re not terrorists,” he said. “We’re simple people with ideas. We need a chance to make our world better. This is our chance.”
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