The “Absher” app is where men can give women permission to travel, and have the ability to activate SMS alerts to let them know when women use their passport at the border.
Today is International Women’s Day, and a fitting time to post about how Apple and Google have continued to allow the Absher app to be downloaded via iTunes and Google Play, despite backlash from media outlets and human rights advocates.
The story was first broke by the INSIDER, in which they reported the story of a 17 year old Saudi girl’s escape from the country. The girl, Shahad al-Mohaimeed, had to steal her family’s phones the night before her escape in order to make sure her Father did not use the Absher app to keep her from leaving the country. She eventually was able to claim asylum in Sweden.
While the app has basic government functions such as paying parking tickets or renewing a passport, the travel features is what has been used to make it difficult for women to leave the country.
- The app allows for guardians to state where women can go, for how long, and which airports they’re allowed to go to.
- Alerts are triggered if a woman leaves a certain area. It is one of the main reasons women have difficulty trying to flee Saudi Arabia are often get caught.
- Absher tips off male guardians and the fleeing women can be apprehended while still within the country.
- On another page the guardian can see easily which permissions are active and change them if needed.
Despite the backlash from the international community, Google and Apple have continued to declined to comment on this situation.