A new Saudi app addresses the kingdom’s “Rahaf Mohammed problem.” Mohammed, a Saudi teenager, recently escaped her abusive family by booking herself on a flight out of Kuwait to Thailand while visiting the country on a family vacation.
Although her passport was seized by a Saudi diplomat at the Bangkok airport, Mohammed managed to barricade herself in a hotel room and began tweeting for help. Canada granted her asylum and arranged for her safe passage there.
Now the Saudi government has launched an app designed to alert a Saudi woman’s male guardian if she presents her passport at a border control. All Saudi women are required to have a male guardian – whether it be her father, brother, husband or even son, etc. The guardian decides if a woman can travel, get a passport, get married or divorced, or sign a contract, among many aspects of her life.
In recent years, certain guardianship restrictions have been lifted. For example, Saudi women are now allowed to go to university, take a job, undergo surgery and start their own business without the permission of their male guardian.
The kingdom made headlines in June 2018 when they allowed women to drive. Until that time, Saudi Arabia had been the only country in the world where women were not allowed to drive. Yet, just one month before the ban was lifted, the kingdom arrested prominent women activists — many of whom had been advocating for the right to drive for years.
The women remain in prison to date and report being whipped, beaten, electrocuted and harassed on a daily basis.
The new app was developed by the Saudi National Information Center.