Sophia the robot was given a passport - something many second- and third-generation residents of Saudi Arabia can only dream of
In a country where many second and third-generation residents have virtually no chance to gain citizenship, a robot called Sophia was given a Saudi passport in Riyadh this week.
The robot became the first in the world to gain citizenship and a passport, and participated in a question and answer session at an innovation summit organised by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.
— CIC Saudi Arabia (@CICSaudi) October 25, 2017
"I am very honoured and proud for this unique distinction," she told the audience. She also impressed them by poking fun at Elon Musk, the co-founder of tech pioneer Tesla, and sci-fi movie Blade Runner, assuring the audience that she would do her "best to make the world a better place".
Adviser to the Saudi court, Saud al-Qahtani, said on Twitter that citizenship was granted as "a symbolic gesture" to celebrate Neom, the $500bn new business and industrial zone announced on Tuesday.
Social media users were quick to outline the hypocrisy of the "gesture".
— علي الكعبي (@hosinoov) October 25, 2017
Translation: Some of us are revoking citizenship from our own citizens, meanwhile Saudi is handing out citizenship to robots!
Non-Saudis are rarely given citizenship, despite the kingdom being the birthplace of many of them.
What about humans who were born here on this land ! #روبوت_بجنسية_سعودية
— S. K (@salkananeh) October 25, 2017
Migrant workers are often subject to mistreatment in the Gulf kingdom, including being bought and sold online due to high demand.
International migrants make up 10.2 million of the population in Saudi Arabia, but do not enjoy the same rights as Saudi nationals.
Sophia is a "female" robot, the irony of which was not lost on many social media users.
I’m wondering if robot Sophia can leave Saudi Arabia without her guardian consent ! Since she’s officially Saudi
— Moudi Aljohani (@Moudhi90) October 26, 2017
In Saudi, women do not have the same rights as their male counterparts, with restrictions on their travel and dress.
The kingdom revoked its ban on female drivers last month, with the new rule expected to be operational next year.