An award for courageous achievement

Updating a post from three weeks ago, aka reporting one bad thing from Trump’s Very Large Array of Bad Things averted: the Afghan girls’ robotics team were granted visas after all.

At the urging of President Donald Trump, U.S. officials have reversed course and decided to allow into the United States a group of Afghan girls hoping to participate in an international robotics competition next week, senior administration officials told POLITICO on Wednesday.

The decision followed a furious public backlash to the news that the six teens had been denied U.S. visas. That criticism swelled as details emerged about the girls’ struggle to build their robot and get visas.

They got here.

For three days in the Daughters of the American Revolution Constitution Hall, where an African-American woman was once denied the right to sing before an integrated audience in the 1930s, the Afghan girls in head scarves were stars on an international stage, with cameras, lights and whispers trailing them from practice to competition.

It was certainly a celebration for Roya Mahboob, a renowned Afghan technology entrepreneur who interpreted for the teenagers and came on behalf of her company, Digital Citizen Fund, a women’s empowerment nonprofit that sponsored the Afghan team.

The six students were chosen from an initial pool of 150 applicants. They built their robot in two weeks, compared with the four months some of their competitors had, because their kit’s shipment was delayed.

“I’m just proud that we show the talent of the women,” Ms. Mahboob said. “We see that there is change.”

The Afghan robot, named Better Idea of Afghan Girls, lurched across the terrain for the first round and skirted out of bounds, but 15-year-old Lida Azizi, a teal-colored braid dangling from under her white head scarf, flashed her teammates a thumbs-up as they cheered in Dari and applauded. As the competition progressed, they continued to make adjustments as they got used to driving their robot, an Afghan flag carefully attached.

They didn’t win, but they got to take part.

During Tuesday’s awards ceremony, judges awarded the Afghans a silver medal as part of an award for courageous achievement, giving gold to the team from South Sudan.

The crowd roared and waved flags as the teenagers accepted their medals and waved.

It was the first medal Fatemah Qaderyan, 14, of the Afghan team had ever earned, and through a translator, she explained that she planned to hang it in her room and show it to all of her friends.

“I am so excited, and very, very happy,” she said, turning the medal over in her hands. “I still can’t believe this happened.”

We take our bright spots where we find them.

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