Vogue Arabia cover featuring Saudi princess sparks backlash

The cover of Vogue Arabia's June issue, featuring a Saudi princess lounging in the driver's seat of a red convertible...

Posted: Jun 1, 2018 12:21 PM
Updated: Jun 1, 2018 12:21 PM

The cover of Vogue Arabia's June issue, featuring a Saudi princess lounging in the driver's seat of a red convertible, has drawn widespread criticism following a string of arrests of women's rights activists.

The June issue, which claims to be "a celebration of the trailblazing women of Saudi Arabia" features Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud, the daughter of the late King, pictured glamorously on the front cover. It was intended to mark the end of a ban on female drivers.

Critics, however, have accused the title of being tone deaf, pointing out that at least 11 activists have been arrested since May 15, most of whom are women who have fought for the right to drive.

According to a state security spokesman, the women arrested were accused of wanting to "destabilize the kingdom and breach its social structure and mar the national consistency."

Many of the detainees were held incommunicado, while state media quickly labeled the women as "traitors" and "agents of embassies."

Although several women have since been released, others remain in custody, including three prominent activists: Loujain al-Hathloul, who was previously detained for 73 days in 2014 after trying to drive from the United Arab Emirates to Saudi Arabia; Aziza al-Yousef, who, at 70, was one of the first activists for the right to drive; and Eman al-Nafjan, a well-known blogger.

Twitter users have called for the women to be freed, while condemning Vogue Arabia for its lack of awareness.

"Let's put a princess who never struggled from the driving ban on the cover," wrote one user. "Who her family issued the driving ban in the first place, put so many women in jail for driving, and just imprisoned prominent women's rights activists who risked their life and freedom to lift the ban."

"A Saudi princess is on the cover of @VogueArabia to celebrate women finally being allowed to drive. Yet, her family is currently jailing the pioneering women that actually fought for that right," wrote another.

Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi activist who was the public face of the Women2Drive movement, and is now based in Australia, tweeted a video response to the cover, urging people not to forget the detained activists.

"These amazing women they fought for women's rights, they fought specifically in the Women2Drive movement," she said.

The outrage has cast a shadow on the lifting of the ban on women drivers, a decision which has been hailed as a revolutionary step forward for the conservative Muslim kingdom.

Saudi Arabia currently bans the mixing of sexes at public events, and religious police impose rules on women, such as requiring the permission of a male guardian to work or travel. However, in recent years, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman has introduced reforms to ease restrictions and increase the number of women in the workforce, including the royal decree issued last September to allow women to drive.

"In our country, there are some conservatives who fear change," Princess Hayfa said in the Vogue interview. "For many, it's all they have known. Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm."

In the face of the arrests, however, some are unconvinced of the crown prince's progressive promises.

"The crown prince, who has styled himself as a reformer with Western allies and investors, should be thanking the activists for their contributions to the Saudi women's rights movement," said Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East director of the Human Rights Watch, in a statement.

"Instead, the Saudi authorities appear to be punishing these women's rights champions for promoting a goal bin Salman alleges to support -- ending discrimination against women."

Elizabeth Throssell, a UN human rights office spokesperson, echoed this sentiment on Tuesday at a Geneva news conference.

"Given the significant loosening of certain restrictions on women's activities in Saudi Arabia in recent months, including the forthcoming ending of the ban on women driving, it's perplexing why both women and men engaged in campaigning for such positive developments are now being targeted by the authorities," said Throssell.

The June issue is not the first time that Vogue has stirred controversy. In 2011 a Vogue magazine article described Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, as "a rose in the desert."

The fawning profile piece, which was published after the Syrian uprising had begun, was widely ridiculed for being tone-deaf to suffering in the country.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 155246

Reported Deaths: 4065
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion25151785
Lake13570355
St. Joseph9145161
Elkhart8759135
Allen8129228
Hamilton6117113
Vanderburgh576760
Tippecanoe369515
Hendricks3268133
Monroe325738
Porter313649
Johnson3105128
Clark293961
Delaware293274
Vigo260538
Madison235093
Cass224022
LaPorte222858
Warrick192965
Kosciusko182625
Floyd179167
Howard162466
Bartholomew141558
Dubois138626
Marshall137426
Wayne126930
Henry125429
Grant125339
Boone122250
Hancock118245
Noble115933
Jackson112915
Dearborn94928
Morgan93740
Lawrence87436
Daviess87133
Gibson87111
Clinton84716
Shelby81730
LaGrange80115
Harrison76224
Knox75610
Putnam72816
Posey7146
DeKalb71011
Fayette66618
Steuben6278
Miami6095
Jasper5945
White58515
Montgomery58322
Greene53337
Scott51813
Decatur50439
Adams4837
Whitley4556
Clay4467
Ripley4418
Sullivan43714
Wells4288
Wabash4119
Starke4077
Orange40425
Huntington3905
Spencer3906
Washington3753
Franklin37225
Jennings36713
Fulton3523
Randolph3529
Jefferson3415
Pike33018
Carroll32513
Perry31014
Jay3056
Fountain2943
Tipton27523
Vermillion2411
Parke2323
Newton22511
Rush2154
Blackford2093
Owen2051
Martin1990
Crawford1581
Pulaski1521
Brown1393
Ohio1297
Benton1100
Union1100
Switzerland920
Warren781
Unassigned0234

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 190430

Reported Deaths: 5161
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin31466640
Cuyahoga19706682
Hamilton16687343
Montgomery10377189
Lucas8285373
Butler8276129
Summit6689265
Warren420064
Stark3796181
Mahoning3709286
Marion338850
Pickaway301146
Delaware287227
Lorain272889
Fairfield264457
Licking257966
Wood249681
Clark249456
Clermont245938
Greene229242
Trumbull2270134
Allen213073
Columbiana212887
Miami199958
Lake193659
Medina185642
Portage162068
Mercer152128
Wayne140269
Ross139436
Richland132324
Tuscarawas129024
Athens12052
Erie115553
Darke114451
Madison105415
Hancock104725
Auglaize100616
Putnam97427
Lawrence93025
Shelby90914
Muskingum8884
Geauga85950
Scioto8599
Belmont78827
Union7583
Ashtabula72648
Sandusky71122
Huron70912
Preble62418
Holmes61710
Seneca60114
Ottawa58430
Fulton53711
Henry47317
Jefferson4694
Clinton46413
Defiance46013
Jackson4598
Crawford4528
Fayette4498
Highland4304
Logan4233
Ashland3986
Champaign3983
Knox38416
Brown3793
Perry36611
Washington35124
Morrow3442
Hardin33613
Williams3354
Coshocton32112
Guernsey3218
Pike3000
Wyandot29513
Gallia29113
Van Wert2633
Meigs21012
Adams2096
Paulding2012
Carroll2007
Hocking1979
Monroe16118
Noble1290
Vinton963
Harrison803
Morgan780
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Clear
64° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 36°
Feels Like: 64°
Angola
64° wxIcon
Hi: 71° Lo: 35°
Feels Like: 64°
Huntington
Broken Clouds
66° wxIcon
Hi: 74° Lo: 38°
Feels Like: 66°
Decatur
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Van Wert
Scattered Clouds
61° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 37°
Feels Like: 61°
Friday Afternoon Showers & Thunderstorms
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events