Beware the tracking number

Business Insider reports that Saudi Arabia uses a tracking number on the packaging of phones to track down women who leave the country.

Women who flee Saudi Arabia expect to be chased.

They expect their friends to be interviewed, their social media to be scoured, their passports to be frozen.

They mostly do not expect Saudi government agents to hunt down the old box for their iPhone.

But why do they expect to be chased, though? I realize Saudi Arabia doesn’t allow women to travel without a male “guardian” but I don’t see why it feels the need to continue that beyond its own borders.

The fact that such techniques are being employed shows how seriously Saudi Arabia takes the mass escape of as many as 1,000 women each year, people it has said are as much of a national security threat as terrorists.


They’re just women after all. Nobody is going to listen to them or look askance at Saudi Arabia for treating them like objects. I’m not seeing the security threat.

A third Saudi woman, who was captured by Saudi agents after fleeing, was also told her IMEI number played a part. INSIDER was told her story by Taleb al-Abdulmohsen, an activist based in Germany, who passed her messages on.

“Captured” after “fleeing” – what is this shit? Nations don’t get to “capture” people who leave it, and people who leave their home countries aren’t “fleeing” – nations aren’t supposed to be prisons, and people who emigrate aren’t considered fugitives. What business does Saudi Arabia have “capturing” women who travel to other countries? That’s not capture, it’s kidnapping.

The woman, apprehended in the ex-Soviet nation of Georgia in 2018, was informed by her Georgian state-funded attorney that Saudi intelligence found her IMEI number. Working with the Georgian police, the attorney said, Saudi officials used it to find her.

“Apprehended” – no, kidnapped.

“The Georgian police tracked you upon request from the Saudi government, using an IMEI that they obtained from the packaging box of your cellphone,” she said, paraphrasing what the lawyer told her.

The woman was taken back to Saudi Arabia, where she has remained since.

Where she has remained a prisoner, kidnapped by the Saudis with help from the Georgian police.

At any rate: if you’re a Saudi woman making plans to leave, be sure to destroy the packaging your phone came in.

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