There’s a Saudi application named ‘Absher’ that allows men to track women’s movement, and no one is happy about it!
It is a known fact that women in Saudi Arabia still have to bear with a high level of oppression in their lives. However, lately, there have been some changes that gave a slight hope that things might be picking up like allowing women to drive in Saudi Arabia for the first time!
Sadly though, just when we were about to get our hopes up, we discovered Absher; an application that Saudi men use to track the movement of their wives, sisters and daughters.
It is available on the Google Play and Apple App stores along with this description: “You can safely browse your profile or your family members, or laborers working for you, and perform a wide range of eServices online.”
How does it work?
The way Absher works is that it includes an alert system that sends a text message to the male if their wife, daughter or sister tries to use their passport. The application also allows the men to cancel any travel plans or reservations the women make and restrict their flying.
However, that is not the main feature of the application. Originally, Absher is supposed to be an integrated electronic platform which facilitates several electronic and digital services for Saudi citizens, such as the ability to pay fines and renew official papers.
But that’s not all it does; one of Absher’s heavily used sections is the registration and notification alert system which Saudi men use to track women. In other words, invade their privacy and control their lives.
How long has it been operating?
Surprisingly, Absher has been in operation with all of its features for years. However, it only lately started to stir heated debate about its tracking features following the story of Rahaf Mohammed. The Saudi teen who fled the kingdom to escape her abusive family was tracked down using this very application after finding asylum in Canada!
Rahaf is not the only one who has tried to secretly escape Saudi Arabia. It is reported that dozens of women have stolen their male guardian’s phone to disable the application and allow themselves the most basic of rights which is to go wherever they want!
As a natural result to this preaching feature, Google and Apple are both receiving heat and harsh criticism from the public. Human rights activists and defenders have been strongly urging the companies to take down the application since it violates basic human and women rights, facilitates misogyny and help enforce gender apartheid.
Last week, Tim Cook, the CEO of Apple announced the following: “I haven’t heard about it. But obviously, we’ll take a look at it if that’s the case.”
As for Google, they told CNN that they’re also “looking into the matter”, however, nothing has yet to be changed.
The Saudi Interior Ministry has defended Absher in an official statement. Categorically denying any allegations that it is being used to violate or inconvenience any citizens, confirming that it only facilitates several services to its users making the lives of the Saudi citizens a lot easier.
As of right now, Absher is still operative in both app stores. Its feature which allows men to track the women in their lives and control their movement is still active. The platforms responsible (Google & Apple) are non-responsive to the demands and urges of the public. And last but not least, the lives of women in Saudi Arabia are still controlled and watched, i.e. they remain prisoners.