Picture of Saudi princess on magazine cover sparks backlash

Web Desk: Vogue magazine has been criticised for publishing a front cover featuring a Saudi Arabian princess at the wheel of a car, while activists who campaigned for an end to a ban on women driving in the kingdom are held in jail.

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The image of Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah al-Saud in the driver’s seat wearing leather gloves and high heels is on the front cover of Vogue Arabia’s June edition, published as the conservative kingdom prepares to lift a driving ban on women.

“A Saudi princess is on the cover of Vogue Arabia to celebrate women finally being allowed to drive,” wrote one social media user. “Yet, her family is currently jailing the pioneering women that actually fought for that right.” One Saudi activist living abroad described the cover as “tone deaf”.

“Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm,” added the princess, whose cover photo was shot in the desert outside the western city of Jeddah.

At least four of those activists were released last week, Amnesty International said, but the fate of the others remains unclear. Reports in state-backed media branded some of the detainees traitors and “agents of embassies”.

The kingdom, long condemned for its human rights record, is set to lift its decades-old ban on women driving on June 24.

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