Google refuses to withdraw from your store on-line Absher, an application of the Government of Saudi Arabia which, among other things, allows men to control the exit of the country from the women they have under their guardianship. The company responds to a request from 14 US congressmen after some activists launched a campaign in the US denouncing the presence of the app in Google and Apple. The controversy, which has also reached the European Parliament, has barely been echoed in The Kingdom of the Desert where the women consulted stress that "the problem is not the application, but the guardianship system".
"Before it was worse, we had to have the yellow form every time we wanted to travel," explains a Saudi executive during a dinner in Riyadh, referring to the authorization that the guardian had to obtain personally in the passport office. "Absher does not solve the essential problem of guardianship [la necesidad de tener el permiso del marido o del padre para sacar el pasaporte o viajar al extranjero], but at least it has made our life easier, "he says. Several of those present, including a businesswoman, a novelist and two university professors, agree.
Google has only communicated its decision to the office of Congresswoman Jackie Speier, who led the petition to the technology firm, according to informs the american magazine Insider Apple, which also allows you to download the free app, He has not responded yet.
The controversy over Absher arose because, at the beginning of February, said publication discover the existence of app during a story about a young Saudi woman who has fled her country. "In the West these technologies are used to improve lives and in Saudi Arabia to strengthen gender apartheid", tweeted Yasmine Mohammed, an ex-Muslim activist and writer with 62,000 followers. To their complaint that Apple and Google were "facilitating an archaic misogyny", human rights organizations like Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International immediately joined. The American feminists mobilized and wrote to their congressmen.
But neither the problem of women's control in Saudi Arabia, nor the system are new. Absher, which can be translated as "at your service", was launched in 2007, although it has been in the last two years when it has been extended. The official effort to digitize the Administration is part of the reforms driven by Prince Mohamed Bin Salmán, heir to the throne and de facto ruler. MBS, as it is popularly known, has declared itself in favor of ending the guardianship system, however, it has not come to abolish it. At the moment, the Saudis no longer need permission to study, work or get their driving license, but their guardian still has to approve their marriage or their trips abroad.
In 2012, the e-services program of the Ministry of the Interior caused a furore when, after telematically facilitating the travel permit for the dependents (women, minor children or domestic employees), he began to notify his departure from the country at the head of family with text messages. "The authorities are using technology to monitor women," Saudi journalist Badriya al Bishr reported at the time. as told by this newspaper.
In its reaction to criticism, the Saudi Government has now recalled that the application "allows all members of society (...), including women, the elderly and disabled, access to 160 different services." Among these are the renewal of identity cards, passports, residence permits or licenses for businesses and, more recently, even some banking operations. In total the app It has 11.6 million users, two of them women, according to the person responsible, Atiyah al Anazy, to the local press.
"I will know that this country has modernized the day when Ghada does not have to ask me to renew his passport," concludes Saudi Abdulaziz in reference to his 28-year-old daughter, a lawyer who works for a multinational in Dubai.