Absher is available on both the Google Play and iTunes store and is an app developed by the Saudi government which allows men to specify when and how women can cross Saudi borders – and will even alert them if they do so.
Absher’s travel ‘featured’ have been identified by activists and refugees as a major factor in the continued difficulty women have leaving Saudi Arabia.
The iTunes and Google Play stores freely host an app called Absher, run by the Saudi government that tracks women and stops them leaving the country
The Absher app is run by the Saudi government and has been downloaded more than one million times so far
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 whil still withint the while the fleeing women can still be apprehended.
On another page the guardian can see easily which permissions are active and change them if needed.
Absher allows men in Saudi Arabia to track and control where women travel
Under Saudi law, every woman has a legal ‘guardian’ who can restrict her travel to specific airports and routes, receiving alerts when they cross borders
Yasmine Mohammed, ex-Muslim activist who campaigns and writes on women’s rights said there was a tragedy in the way Apple and Google were facilitating ‘archaic misogyny.’
‘What irony. In the West these technologies are used to improve lives and in Saudi Arabia they’re used to enforce gender apartheid.’
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International have expressed concern about the app which have been downloaded from the Google and Apple stores more than one millions times.
‘Apple and Google have rules against apps that facilitate threats and harassment. Apps like this one can facilitate human rights abuses, including discrimination against women,’ Rothna Begum a Middle East researcher for Human Rights Watch told The Insider.
‘In evaluating whether an app should be allowed, app store providers should be considering the broader context of the purpose of the app, how it is used in practice, and whether it facilitates serious abuses. Companies should apply extra scrutiny to government-operated apps in particular.’
‘Even though the app is more general purpose, the government could simply remove the guardianship tracking functionality from the app, and continue to offer the rest of the functionality.’
Similarly, Dana Ahmed, a Saudi Arabia researcher for Amnesty International similarly condemned the app saying, ‘SMS alerts were ‘another example of how the Saudi Arabian government has produced tools to limit women’s freedoms.
‘The tracking of women in this way curtails their movement and once again highlights the disturbing system of discrimination under the guardianship laws.’
The human rights organization has called on Apple and Google to accept that the app is being used to harm women, and demand changes to stop it happening in future.
Apple and Google have so far yet to to comment.