Many Saudi women exploit mobile app to travel abroad


Riyadh: Many women in Saudi Arabia manipulate a cellphone application 'Absher' that monitors their location for the benefit of their male guardians, in order to travel out of the country, a woman said in an interview.

The woman, who identified herself as Rana, said when she was 20 she asked her father, the official guardian, to grant authorisation for a passport via the app, Efe news agency reported.

"My father said 'we do not travel abroad. Why do you need it?'" Rana told, adding her father proceeded to shout and accused her of trying to escape the country.

Rana got onto the app using her father's cellphone and by using his account gave herself approval for a passport, which she then had got delivered to her home.

"Many Saudi women do the same. Many parents are old and need their children to open their accounts and do paperwork electronically," Rana said. "This makes it easier for women to get access to their parents' accounts and take advantage," she said.

Rana said she was unable to travel abroad even after getting the passport as she still needed permission to travel from her guardian.

"Absher follows the movement of women and sends the guardian a message with the woman's name, the airport and the flight ahead of the take off," she said. "This enables the guardian to electronically reject the woman's trip at the last moment, in case she used the account without the consent," she continued.

"This presents a great obstacle for Saudi women when they try to leave the country," Rana bemoaned.

Through Absher, an app launched by the Saudi Ministry of the Interior, citizens can carry out most travel procedures without having to visit government offices.

Absher also allows men to register women and minors under their guardianship and grant or deny permits needed even to enrol in schools, travel abroad, or get married.

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