BEIRUT (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - An image on the cover of Vogue Arabia of a Saudi princess behind the wheel of a red convertible has sparked anger in the conservative kingdom following the jailing of activists who campaigned for women to be allowed to drive.
Nearly a dozen prominent activists were arrested last month, just weeks before the ban on women driving is due to be lifted. Most were women who had for years campaigned for the reforms now being implemented.
Supporters of the activists took to social media to accuse the publishers of Vogue Arabia of insensitivity over the cover image of Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud.
“Tell @VogueArabia that when it falsely presents royal princesses as champions of #SaudiWomenDriving, real women champions are at imminent risk,” tweeted Fadi Al-Qadi, whose handle describes him as a human rights commentator.
“A princess on the cover of Vogue Arabia to celebrate lifting the ban while the women driving activists are in jail for treason,” tweeted another user under the handle @Hala_Aldosari.
Some Twitter users shared doctored versions of the cover photo swapping the face of Princess Hayfa with that of Loujain al-Hathloul, one of the detained activists.
The decision to lift a decades-old ban on women driving cars was hailed as proof of a new progressive trend in Saudi Arabia.
But activists’ arrests have raised concerns from campaigners and the United Nations over Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman’s approach to reforms.
Reporting by Heba Kanso @hebakanso, Editing by Claire Cozens. Please credit Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women’s rights, trafficking, property rights, and climate change. Visit www.trust.org