01/06/2018 11:15 BST

Vogue Arabia Criticised For Saudi Princess Driving Cover While Women's Rights Activists Are In Prison

As the lifting of the ban on female drivers is drawing near, people are questioning just how progressive this Vogue cover is.

Vogue Arabia’s June cover featuring Saudi Arabia Princess Hayfa in the driver’s seat of a red convertible has prompted a passionate debate following the arrest of women’s rights activists.

The image is a nod to the legal reform happening from 24 June in Saudi Arabia, which will allow women to drive without having a guardian in the car with them.

“In our country, there are some conservatives who fear change. For many, it’s all they have known,” Princess Hayfa, daughter of the late King Abdullah, told Vogue Arabia. “Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm,”

The cover caused much conversation on Twitter, with some appreciating the prominence given to “progress”.

However others said they were disappointed that Vogue’s “celebration of trailblazing women” focused on a Princess rather than those who are veteran campaigners for the right to drive.

Nearly a dozen prominent activists, were arrested this month, according to Reuters.  Six women and three men remain in custody facing very serious allegations that “could lead to draconian sentences”, U.N. human rights spokeswoman Liz Throssell told a Geneva briefing.

Vogue Arabia is not the only magazine to feature a middle eastern woman driving towards equality on its cover. Azeema, an independent magazine that focuses on representation for Middle East and North African women, had a similar cover shoot.  

A post shared by AZEEMA (@azeemamag) on

spokesperson for the team behind Azeema told HuffPost UK they have mixed feelings about the Vogue Arabia cover: “We think it’s great that they are highlighting this topic on the cover and see it as a positive move, however we do understand why some people are critical of the choice of who’s driving, especially since those who fought so hard for this change are still sitting in jail. 

“While we think it would be incredible to have the activists included in the shoot, people need to remember that this is still Vogue Arabia and the magazine has this certain image they wish to uphold, which is why they feature these specific people on the cover. We would hope that the princess herself is doing something to help release these women or support their loved ones. 

“The bold cover has clearly encouraged discussion around the subject, so we are hopeful that there will be a positive outcome for all the women who have been campaigning for this change.”