The June cover of Vogue Arabia, with a Saudi princess at the wheel of a convertible, faces a setback.
The photo was to celebrate the pioneering women of Saudi Arabia against a ban on female drivers, which will be lifted on 24 June. But the royal family was charged with imprisoning women's rights activists who fought for years for the right to drive
It is the first Vogue edition dedicated to the conservative country. Editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut said the magazine "celebrates the exciting and progressive changes that are changing the kingdom" and "is the embodiment of this new era of female empowerment [her royal highness] Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud".
He added that the photo shoot in the "Dhahban Desert Dancing Sand" outside Jeddah is "of great importance to the Arab world".
But some people saw the cover as an affront to Saudi women's rights activists who were recently arrested.
Let's take a princess who never defended herself against the driving ban on the cover. For whom her family has issued the ban on driving, so many women have been jailed and only imprisoned prominent women's rights activists who risked their lives and their freedom to lift the ban. https://t.co/RJWU4ziF7r
– Anon (@dontcarebut) May 31, 2018
At least 11 activists have been imprisoned since mid-May, reflecting "a large-scale crackdown on women" human rights activists and other supporters Some of the activists have been released, others remain in detention.
This casts doubt on the Kingdom's commitment to women's rights, said Sarah Leah Whitson, director of the Middle East at Human Rights Watch, in a statement "The Crown Prince, who has called Western allies and investors reformers, should thank the activists for their contributions to the Saudi women's rights movement."
"Choosing a Saudi Princess for Vogue Arabia & # 39; ; s cover is completely sound deaf, "said Husain Abdulla, executive director of the Americans for Democracy & Human Rights in Bahrain, NPR." It veils the long-standing Violations of the rights and freedoms of women in Saudi Arabia and stealing loans from the pioneering women who have been fighting for equal rights since the 1990s – and who have just locked up the government. "
Fatima Saied, president of the Central Florida Muslim women's organization, told NPR that the cover sends out an "incomplete" message. "Ignoring the plight of women's activists imprisoned at the moment and ignoring all rights that still hurt the Saudi regime paint an inaccurate picture."
Some critics took up Twitter and overlaid images of detained activists on the princess's face.
انا ماني شاطرة ابدا بالفوتوشوب .. بس حاولت اسوي اللي اقدر عليه
دي المفروض تكون الصورة .. اضيفو المناضلات الحقيقيات انتو كمان pic.twitter.com/Eq7eufwlgr
– & # 39; (@ IWafaS_) May 30, 2018
In the issue of the Princess, she shares memories of her father, the late King Abdullah. She says, "There are some conservatives in our country who fear change, for many it's all they know, and personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm."
The topic includes coverage of other prominent Saudi women as activist Manal al-Sharif, who filmed herself and later was arrested.
Al-Sharif tweeted a picture of the front page of the magazine on Wednesday, reminding the public to remember the women's activists arrested by the authorities last month. "
@ VogueArabia The June issue is dedicated to Saudi women, I do not have my problem yet, but I'm so happy that my country wives are being celebrated, but let's not forget the true heroes @ azizayousef @ Saudwoman @ LoujainHathloul. "
Arnaut declared the New York Times his thinking behind the magazine's title page. "Informing and initiating healthy debate on meaningful issues is a priority for us, so we decided to underscore this with an iconic and powerful image that fully serves its purpose: the focus on the region and the role of women in society to direct Saudi society. "
The magazine did not respond to NPR's request for a comment.
Vogue Arabia launched online in October 2016, followed by a print magazine in March 2017. According to publisher Condé Nast, it receives more than 1.8 million page views per month.
The fashion and lifestyle magazine has come under fire in the past for its coverage in the Middle East. 2011 Vogue published Arabia "A Rose in the Desert", a profile of Asma al-Assad, the wife of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
The article praised the couple as a "wild-democratic" family couple holidaying in Europe, promoting Christianity, feeling comfortable with American celebrities, making them the "safest country in the Middle East" and wanting to give Syria a "brand essence" The Atlantic reports.
It has been removed since Vogue site and The Hill reports that a US lobbying firm received $ 5,000 a month from the Syrian government to assist with the Syrian First Lady interview and photo shoot.