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Published:
2018-06-02 08:07:48 BdST

Vogue Arabia backs Saudi Princess on cover


FT ONLINE

Vogue Arabia has defended its use of a princess on its cover to mark "trailblazing women of Saudi Arabia", after being accused of ignoring a crackdown on women's rights activists.

The edition features Princess Hayfa Bint Abdullah Al Saud in the driving seat of a car.

A ban on women driving in the country is due to be lifted on June 24.

But almost a dozen women and their supporters who campaigned to end the ban have been arrested in recent weeks.

The magazine has been labelled "tone deaf" by critics because several of these activists remain in custody.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman announced in September 2017 that he would lift the ban on women driving after years of campaigning by activists.

A press release for the edition says it was intended as a celebration of the cultural reform under way in Saudi Arabia.

In the issue, Princess Hayfa says she supported the changes with "great enthusiasm".

The edition also contains features and interviews with several other high-profile Saudi Women, including fashion designers, a footballer and a photographer.

In a statement, Vogue Arabia editor-in-chief Manuel Arnaut defended the magazine's editorial decisions.

He said the publication "highlights and discusses key issues related to womanhood in the Arab world" and said using Princess Hayfa "helped magnify" their message.

Some Saudi Twitter users complained that the princess did not deserve to be on the cover, especially with the headline "driving force". Some posted memes photoshopping activists in her place.

But others welcomed the edition, saying the magazine had "made history" by featuring Princess Hayfa, and described her as an "inspiration".

The controversy was reminiscent of another involving Vogue in 2011 - when it ran a feature on Syrian first lady Asmaa Assad in its global edition, just as her husband began a violent repression of protestors.

Saudi Arabia's King Salman announced in September 2017 that he would lift the ban on women driving after years of campaigning by activists.

A press release for the edition says it was intended as a celebration of the cultural reform under way in Saudi Arabia. In the issue, Princess Hayfa says she supported the changes with "great enthusiasm".

The edition also contains features and interviews with several other high-profile Saudi Women, including fashion designers, a footballer and a photographer.

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