©2019

  • Carolyn Maloney

Saudi Arabia tried to justify its app that lets men control where women travel amid a firestorm of c

Saudi Arabia has responded to criticism aimed at its Absher app, which Apple and Google are currently investigating.

The Saudi Interior Ministry defended the app in a press statement via the official Saudi Press Agency on Saturday.

“The Ministry strongly condemns the systematic campaign aimed at questioning the purpose of (Abshar) services,” the statement said.

Saudi Arabia also railed against attempts to “politicize” the app, following interventions from international lawmakers, including US Senator Ron Wyden.



INSIDER reported that, among many of its functions, Absher allows men to control where women travel outside the Kingdom, and set up SMS alerts for when women use their passports at the border. Since INSIDER first reported in-depth on Absher’s sinister travel function:

  1. Human rights organisations Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch condemned Apple and Google for hosting the app.

  2. US Senator Ron Wyden wrote to Google CEO Sundar Pichai and Apple CEO Tim Cook to demand they “immediately remove” the app. Wyden said the app “flies in the face of the type of society you both claim to support and defend.”

  3. US congresswomen Rep. Katherine Clark called Absher a “patriarchal weapon,” and Rep. Carolyn B. Maloney called for the tech giants to axe the app.

  4. Apple CEO Tim Cook promised to look into Absher to see if the criticism was warranted. Soon after, Google told the New York Times it was investigating the app.

  5. European Parliament lawmakers expressed concern about the app as a tool of Saudi Arabia’s guardianship system.

Here’s the full statement from the Saudi Press Agency:

“An official source at Interior Ministry said, in a repose of what is being circulated about the application of services (Absher), that these allegations aim to disable the benefits of more than 160 different procedural services to all members of the society provided by the Government of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabian to the citizens and residents, including women, the elderly, and people with special needs. ‘The application represents electronic government services as an essential and direct means for the beneficiaries to access to the services at any time and from anywhere. “The Ministry strongly condemns the systematic campaign aimed at questioning the purpose of (Abshar) services, which is provided on smart phones to facilitate the services to its beneficiaries. “The Ministry of Interior at the same time confirms its rejection of the attempts to politicize the systematic use of technical instruments which represent legitimate rights to the users, and its keenness to protect the interests of the beneficiaries of its services.”