At the beginning of the Corona pandemic, most countries of the world-imposed closure and movement prevention procedures that are the most severe in the modern era, which has not been witnessed before.
However, many countries have taken the pandemic as a means to suppress their citizens and impose measures using special software to locate citizens, spy on their conversations, and prevent their movements without downloading this software on their mobiles.
Saudi Arabia stood topped these countries by imposing the use of such software for citizens and expatriates. In cases of not using the software, the authorities would call the number and warn them to download the software of they will be subject to arrest and interrogation.
Among this software is the “Absher” application, which monitors the movement of citizens and expatriates, in particular, thus limiting movement or travel of women, as well as limiting the expatriates travel without the permission of their guardians, by communicating with them through this application and preventing the security and border police from allowing them to leave.
“Tawakulna” is another application that was introduced as a way to detect those infected with the Coronavirus and to ensure they are quarantined; however, the Saudi authorities are using this application to prevent gatherings of citizens, track their whereabouts and prevent them from moving between cities.
The “Absher and Tawakkalna” software contributes to the continued influence of the Saudi authorities and businessmen, as it requires the granting of visas to their foreign spouses or children residing in the country by the Saudi citizen. This application enables Saudis to cancel the residence visa of their foreign spouses and issue their exit visas, which puts the spouse at risk of arrest unless they leave the country.
This created a lot of problems in divorce cases, prompting the Ministry of Justice, in 2016, to issue a decision enabling judges to allow foreign nationals to remain in the country pending the completion of the divorce case from their Saudi spouses. However, this decision did not change the Saudis’ control over their foreign spouses during the marriage period.
Other steps to use electronic software with the aim of imposing restrictions on citizens and expatriates are also being used, including Pegasus software, which monitors calls and conversations of citizens and expatriates.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that “everyone has the right to leave any country, including his own, and to return to his country.” This is an established principle under international human rights law, and restrictions can only be individual, for a legitimate reason, for example, during a criminal investigation.
Saudi Arabia violates this article by imposing restrictions on Saudi women wishing to travel abroad, as well as on migrant workers and foreign residents wishing to leave the country.
These measures have stripped citizens and residents of many of their freedoms under the pretext of combating the Coronavirus, as it exceeded the prevention of social contact with others to allowing travel and departure, which requires international intervention to urge Saudi Arabia to stop these procedures and use this software for health purposes only without using it to violate human rights.