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A team of six teenage girls came from Afghanistan to compete in an international robotics competition in Washington, DC. To get here, they had to battle not only physics, but bigotry, intolerance, and irrational fear.

Policy & Politics

Afghan Girls Overcome Stupid Politicians, Religious Lunatics To Compete In Robotics Competition

A team of six teenage girls came from Afghanistan to compete in an international robotics competition in Washington, DC. To get here, they had to battle not only physics, but bigotry, intolerance, and irrational fear.

One of the stated reasons for the US decision to engage the Taliban in Afghanistan 16 years ago was to make it possible for women to participate in Afghan society. First Lady Laura Bush made empowerment of Afghan women one of her highest goals.

Empowerment Of Afghan Women

Afghan robotics team

This book is featured on the Bush Institute website and features an foreword by Laura Bush.

Today, the George W. Bush Institute carries the following statement on its Afghan Women’s Project home page: “For Afghanistan to become a fully inclusive society, women’s rights must be protected and expanded.” A cornerstone of US policy toward Afghanistan is the Promote policy, which states, “Everyone who cares about the future of Afghanistan supports women’s empowerment as the foundation for economic growth, peace and security.”

Despite all that lofty rhetoric, when a team of young Afghan women applied for visas to attend an international robotics competition in Washington, DC, the US State Department, reflecting what it assumed were the wishes of the Muslim-hating president, summarily denied their request.

Hypocrisy At The Highest Levels

The young girls were crushed. “We thought the U.S. and Afghanistan had friendly relations. We thought the U.S.’s fight for women’s rights and equality would get us visas,” said Rodaba Noori, age 15, according to The Guardian.

They were stunned when they learned that visas had been approved for a team from Iran — one of the 6 Muslim countries targeted by Trump’s unconscionable travel ban. “Why is it only Afghans who can’t go? It’s discrimination. It really makes me angry,” said Lida Azizi, age 16.

Special Hardships

Alireza Mehraban, the team’s mentor, recounts the special hardships the young women encountered in order to compete at all. Most had to travel through Taliban-controlled sections of the country to complete their visa applications in Kabul. Taliban men are so weak and insecure, they cannot control their sexual urges if they see a woman’s face, hands, ankles, or other body parts. Therefore, they insist women be fully covered whenever they are outside the home.

Like many Muslim countries, women in parts of Afghanistan are forbidden to appear in public without an escort from a male relative, lest they misbehave and provoke any other male. Religious thought police patrol regularly and delight in administering public whippings to any woman who dares contravene sharia law.

The Robotics Competition

The robotics competition involves designing robots that can separate blue and orange balls. Afghan officials were so befuddled about why the equipment needed to compete in the contest would be sent to females that the kits were detained for 3½ months after they arrived in Kabul. As a result, the girls had only 2 weeks to complete their robots — other contestants had 4 months.

When the plight of the girls caught the attention of the news media, the #FakePresident, whose malevolent policies created the mess in the first place, magnanimously stepping in and ordered the State Department to grant visas to the girls after all, cutting the legs out from under his own people who thought they were dutifully carrying out his hateful policies.

They were met at Dulled International Airport by Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan’s ambassador to the US, who called it the “proudest moment of my career.” He described the girls as symbols of a new Afghanistan emerging from the shadow of America’s longest war.

“These girls are 16 years old. The youngest is 14. She was born after the US engagement in Afghanistan, and the others around the time when the US started to engage with the country. … 16 years ago we didn’t have schools for girls. And today there are,” Mohib said.

The Afghan Women Are The Future

“What does it mean? These girls are actually representative of what progress has been made. They have gone through that process every year, through education. They started with their primary school and went up and today are competing in an international competition with the robots that they built.”

At 14, Somayah Faruqi, is the youngest member of the Afghan robotics team. She says her favorite memory from the contest was working with teams from other countries and observing the different techniques her competitors used to assemble their robots. “I learned a lot from them,” she says. “It was a very unique experience.” Too bad so many Americans are petrified to learn from others.

At the end of the competition against teams from 158 other nations, the Afghan women didn’t win, but they were awarded a special silver medal by the organizers to commemorate their “courageous achievement” and “can do” attitude. The members of the team say they plan to continue studying science and technology, and hope to return to the competition as mentors for a future team of young Afghans.

The Land Of Missed Opportunities

Americans were once known for just such a “can do” attitude, but now they sit at home, quaking in fear with the covers over their heads. The thought of what harm foreigners who are allowed into the country might do terrifies them. A country built by immigrants doesn’t want the creative, exploratory blood of modern-day immigrants to change the stew in the pot.

The US is not the only country with smart people. By vilifying those who look different, dress differently, and worship differently, those smart people from other lands will find other nations where their genius is encouraged and allowed to flourish. And the US will be poorer because of its self-inflicted policies that enshrine the ravings of a madman into law.

Watching this inspiring video from the Bush Institute makes it plain just how far America has fallen as it runs away from its traditional role as an international leader. There is much America could learn from these young women, if we would only allow ourselves to listen.

Source: The Guardian

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Written By

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else the Singularity may lead him. You can follow him on Twitter but not on any social media platforms run by evil overlords like Facebook.


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