In a real-life drama more exciting than fiction, two runaway sisters from Saudi Arabia requested Apple and Google to remove Absher – an inhuman app – allowing men to control women’s movements in the country.
According to The Guardian, Maha and Wafa al-Subaie have fled their family and sought asylum in Georgia. As reported, Absher is a woman-tracking app available on the App Store and Google’s Play Store.
Inhuman App Allows Saudi Men to Control and Monitor Women’s Travels
With this government e-service app, male members of a family can keep their eyes on the movements of female members. If women use their passports, men get an SMS update on their smartphones.
Wafa, who is 25, said, “It gives men control over women. They (Apple and Google) have to remove it.” Absher allows Saudi men to withdraw or update permissions for female relatives to travel abroad.
The app is widely used by Saudis to renew passports, make appointments, and view traffic violations. The interior ministry of Saudi Arabia developed the app.
Conservative Islamic culture promotes the male guardianship system, and therefore, women have to seek permission from men to work, marry, and travel.
al-Subaie sisters, who stole their father’s smartphone, knew many other women wanted to run away from the clutches of abusive families. The smartphone was stolen to get passports and authorization to reach Istanbul.
The sisters believe that tech companies can take some concrete actions to remove this app or the app should allow women to plan their travels independently.
Wafa said, “If [they] remove this application, maybe the government will do something.”
Notably, neither company was approachable for comments. However, Tim Cook, CEO of Apple, said in February that he didn’t have any information about Absher, but he would “take a look at it.”
Increasing reports of women escaping Saudi Arabia certainly raises concerns about women’s safety in the country. According to Lynn Maalouf, Middle East research director for rights group Amnesty International, “Despite some limited reforms, women are inadequately protected against domestic violence and abuse and, more generally, are discriminated against.”
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