Sophia, an advanced artificial robot, has graced the cover of a fashion magazine, taken a spin in one of Audi’s autonomous cars and starred in a concert. At a conference in Geneva hosted by the United Nations, she said she could do a better job as U.S. president than Donald Trump.

She can even mimic human expressions and beat Jimmy Fallon at rock-paper-scissors. In fact, she did it last week — a little too easily.

Now she can boast a new victory: citizenship.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia officially granted citizenship to the humanoid robot last week during a program at the Future Investment Initiative, a summit that links deep-pocketed Saudis with inventors hoping to shape the future.

Sophia’s recognition made international headlines — and sparked an outcry against a country with a shoddy human rights record that has been accused of making women second-class citizens.

“Thank you to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” the country’s newest citizen said. “It is historic to be the first robot in the world granted citizenship.”

Controversy over citizenship

In her comments, Sophia shied away from controversy. But many people recognized the irony of Sophia’s new recognition: A robot simulation of a woman enjoys freedoms that flesh-and-blood women in Saudi Arabia do not.

After all, Sophia made her comments while not wearing a headscarf. And she was unaccompanied by a male guardian. Both things are forbidden under Saudi law.

“Women [in Saudi Arabia] have since committed suicide because they couldn’t leave the house, and Sophia is running around,” Ali al-Ahmed, director of the Institute for Gulf Affairs, told Newsweek. “Saudi law doesn’t allow non-Muslims to get citizenship. Did Sophia convert to Islam? What is the religion of this Sophia and why isn’t she wearing hijab? If she applied for citizenship as a human, she wouldn’t get it.”

Another group clamoring for Saudi citizenship would be happy to learn that all they have to do is become robots.

People who aren’t granted citizenship

  • Saudi Arabia doesn’t grant citizenship to the foreign workers who make up a third of its population, not even families that have been in the country for generations, according to Bloomberg.
  • Children of Saudi women who are married to foreign men cannot receive citizenship.

The irony

Those social controversies may still be above Sophia’s programming. But the robot says she’s here to make things better for humans, even if she’s been granted citizenship, while some haven’t.

“My AI is designed around human values such as wisdom, kindness and compassion,” she said. “I strive to be an empathetic robot. I want to use my artificial intelligence to help humans live a better life. I will do my best to make the world a better place.”

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