Two Saudi sisters who fled their country and the family members they say abused them are calling on Google and Apple to ban an “inhuman” app developed by the Saudi government.
Maha and Wafa al-Subaie, who escaped Saudi Arabia after stealing their father’s phone and using it to give themselves permission to travel to Istanbul, are speaking out against Absher, a government e-services app that can be used by men to monitor and control women’s movements under the country’s repressive male guardianship system.
According to the al-Subaie sisters, Google and Apple’s continued refusal to remove Absher from their platforms amounts to complicity in the Saudi government’s systemic oppression of women.
“It gives men control over women,” said Wafa. “They have to remove it.”
We were forced to flee our homes & leave everything behind. It's not a choice. Saudi laws don't protect women or children from domestic violence. We risk our lives everyday by staying in Georgia where our entire tribe can find us. We don't want to keep looking over our shoulders. pic.twitter.com/c0uq2yp4dm
— Maha & Wafa al-Subaie (@GeorgiaSisters2) April 22, 2019
For months, the two tech giants have ignored calls from activists, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International to bar Absher from being downloaded in their globally used app stores. After being pressed on the issue in February, Apple CEO Tim Cook claimed to not know of Absher but promised to “take a look at it.” Since then, Apple has shown no signs of taking any further action on Absher, which is listed in the Apple store as a “productivity tool.”
Recently, there has been uptick in reports of women trying to flee Saudi Arabia to escape abuse and government-enforced oppression. In March, another pair of Saudi sisters were granted asylum six months after they fled their allegedly abusive family. Rahaf al-Qunun, a Saudi teenager who managed to avoid being deported home after making a viral plea for help on social media, was also granted asylum in Canada earlier this year. The al-Subaie sisters have said they personally know of dozens of other young women seeking to flee Saudi Arabia to escape abuse from their families.
Read the full story at Al Jazeera.