‘Vogue’ Arabia’s new cover intended to celebrate the end of the female driver ban causes controversy

At first glance, Vogue Arabia’s June cover is nothing out of the ordinary for a fashion magazine. A glamorous woman — a princess, in fact — poses in the driver’s seat of a sleek sports car parked in the desert.

Draped in white, with a scarf covering her head and black driving gloves, it’s all Grace Kelly meets 2018. Dig a little deeper though, and it’s not just a model posing in the car for this Vogue Arabia cover. It’s a political statement.

According to the magazine, the cover is a celebration of the end of the ban on women driving in Saudi Arabia.

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🇸🇦“In our country, there are some conservatives who fear change. For many, it’s all they have known. Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm.” HRH Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud is in the driving seat on the cover of #VogueArabia’s first-ever #SaudiIssue. The Saudi issue will launch in a monumental month, with the ban on women driving in the Kingdom set to be lifted on June 24. Read our exclusive interview with the artist and daughter of the late King Abdullah in the June issue, on shelves June 1. Cover 1 of 3 #VogueArabia 🇸🇦 Photography @boo_george_studio Fashion Direction @katieellentrotter Interview @mrarnaut Production @snapfourteen في بلدنا، بعض المحافظين يخشون التغيير. وبالنسبة لكثيرين، هذا كل ما يعرفون. وأنا عن نفسي أؤيد هذه التغييرات بكل حماس"، هذا ما صرحت به سمو الأميرة هيفاء بنت عبد الله آل سعود، والتي تظهر خلف عجلة قيادة السيارة على غلاف #عدد_الاحتفاء_بالسعودية الأول من نوعه على الإطلاق من #ڤوغ_العربية. وسيصدر عدد الاحتفاء بالسعودية هذا في شهر تاريخي يشهد تنفيذ قرار رفع الحظر عن قيادة النساء للسيارات في المملكة، والمقرر يوم 24 يونيو. اقرؤوا حوارنا الحصري مع الأميرة في عدد يونيو، والذي يتوافر في منافذ البيع اعتباراً من الأول من يونيو. #ڤوغ_العربية

A post shared by Vogue Arabia (@voguearabia) on May 30, 2018 at 12:00am PDT

“HRH Princess Hayfa bint Abdullah Al Saud is in the driving seat on the cover of Vogue Arabia’s first-ever Saudi issue,” Vogue Arabia wrote on Instagram. “The Saudi issue will launch in a monumental month, with the ban on women driving in the Kingdom set to be lifted on June 24.”

The issue is all about groundbreaking women, with a new era in Saudi Arabia on the horizon.

While the princess on the cover is actually the daughter of a former king, whose own family had enforced the driving ban, as noted in the interview, she’s now on the side supporting this change. “In our country, there are some conservatives who fear change,” she told Vogue Arabia. For many, it’s all they have known. Personally, I support these changes with great enthusiasm.”

But that’s not really the problem people have. It’s that the princess is on the cover of a Vogue issue, glamorously behind the wheel promoting equality, while multiple women have been jailed in her country for doing exactly the same thing within just the past two weeks.

People have gone so far as to replace the face of the princess on the cover with that of one of the many activists.

In an emailed statement to Mic, VManuel Arnaut, the editor-in-chief of Vogue Arabia, said: Each month, Vogue Arabia highlights and discusses key issues related to womanhood in the Arab world. Fashion might be part of our core business, but informing and initiating heathy debates around meaningful topics are also a priority under my editorship. Naturally, we could not ignore the current affairs, especially when they are related to Arab women in one of the markets in the region where Vogue Arabia is especially relevant.”

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