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Saudi Arabia granted a robot citizenship, giving it more rights than Saudi women
The humanoid named Sophia became the first robot in history to be granted citizenship at the Future Investment Initiative in Riyadh on Oct. 25. The decision sparked a backlash, with people furious that a female robot achieved more rights than millions of women and refugees in Saudi Arabia.
— CIC Saudi Arabia (@CICSaudi) October 25, 2017
Many pointed out that Sophia was presented at the conference not wearing the traditional dress required of Saudi women. No hijab. No abaya. The Hanson Robotics-made humanoid was also not accompanied in public by a man. According to Saudi law, women are required to have a male guardian—a father, brother, husband, or even son—who make decisions on their behalf.
Some of the things women aren’t able to do by themselves include apply for a passport, travel outside the country, study abroad, get married, or exit prison.
You're telling me, Saudi freaking Arabia, the country that has probably the worst human rights on the planet, made a robot a citizen? FFS
— Matt Blake (@mattblake94) October 26, 2017
On Wednesday, the sarcastic hashtag #?????_?????_??????_??????? or #Sophia_demands_the_repeal_of_guardianship started trending on Twitter.
— Farah (@fff_xa) October 26, 2017
I want to become Sophia one day and get my rights
— غـيّـمٓ (@o7_fy) October 25, 2017
— IBRA⚖️. (@ibuurr) October 26, 2017
Others, including actress Rosario Dawson, noted the robot was granted citizenship when refugees around the world are being turned down. Saudi Arabia has been strongly criticized over the past few years for failing to help refugees fleeing Syria. Amnesty International claimed in a 2014 report that the Gulf countries—Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, and Bahrain—offered zero resettlement places to Syrian refugees.
Just icymi… this robot has citizenship and people are still calling other humans illegal… https://t.co/WJdTTeOhEG
— Rosario Dawson (@rosariodawson) October 27, 2017
How can a robot easily become a citizen, but my foreign brothers and sisters are in refugee camps,suffering because the gov won't accpt them https://t.co/njnbyE2Aur
— Sadie Sydney (@flowersforsadie) October 27, 2017
— R J (@KataAndKumite) October 27, 2017
Saudi Arabia’s newly appointed 32-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman vowed on Tuesday at the conference to return to a moderate Islam and “obliterate the remnants of extremism very soon.” Last month, Saudi Arabia announced it would allow women to drive, abolishing a longstanding rule and symbol of the country’s repression.
Phillip Tracy is a former technology staff writer at the Daily Dot. He's an expert on smartphones, social media trends, and gadgets. He previously reported on IoT and telecom for RCR Wireless News and contributed to NewBay Media magazine. He now writes for Laptop magazine.