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Afghan girls travel to Washington for robotics competition

By
Ed Adamczyk
A team of teenage girls from Herat, Afghanistan, began their travel to Washington on Friday to participate in a robotics competition. They were twice denied visas by the States Department, but were approved for entry to the United States after an order by President Donald Trump. Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA
A team of teenage girls from Herat, Afghanistan, began their travel to Washington on Friday to participate in a robotics competition. They were twice denied visas by the States Department, but were approved for entry to the United States after an order by President Donald Trump. Photo by Jalil Rezayee/EPA

July 14 (UPI) -- An all-female team of Afghan teenagers finally boarded a plane to attend a U.S. robotics competition Friday, after intervention from President Donald Trump.

The group of six, from Herat, Afghanistan, was twice denied visas to attend the Washington, D.C., event, the only team from 162 nations whose application for entry to the United States was rejected by the State Department. Politico reported on Thursday that Trump personally intervened to clear their diplomatic path to attend the competition.

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They left Herat for Kabul, and boarded a plane to Washington on Friday. They will represent Afghanistan at an international science fair on Sunday, instead of relying on their fallback plan, of participating via video link from Afghanistan.

On Tuesday, a letter signed by 53 members of the U.S. House of Representatives urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to issue visas for the girls. On Wednesday a White House spokesperson confirmed Trump had intervened and ordered officials to grant visas to the girls. The young engineers will be allowed entry under a protocol known as "parole," in which they will not be given formal visas but can remain in the United States for no more than 10 days.

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Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and assistant, said she looks forward "to welcoming this brilliant team of Afghan girls" to the competition.

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