The Saudi National Information Center has developed a mobile application called “Absher” (Arabic for “Enjoy”) that allows male guardians, usually husbands and fathers, to monitor women’s movements.
The app, available on iOS and Android, is designed to help guardians with tasks like renewing a driver’s license or paying fines, but also to monitor women and stop them from leaving the country without their consent.
The app sends a notification when a woman presents her passport at border control. Border police will deny the woman travel if her guardian says so.
In early January, a Saudi teenager named Rahaf Mohammed al-Qunun tried to flee to Australia with a connecting flight in Thailand. In Bangkok, a Saudi official met her to take her back to Saudi Arabia, but she refused to return. After a days-long standoff, Canada finally granted the teenager asylum.
Over the past two years, Saudi Arabia has lessened several restrictions on its female citizens. Women are now allowed to drive with their guardians’ permission, go to sports stadiums, and start their own business without the permission of a male guardian.