‘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.

🇸🇦“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

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“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.”

RELATED: Saudi women embrace change 

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Saudi women embrace change
A Saudi woman drives her car along a street in the Saudi coastal city of Jeddah, on September 27, 2017. Saudi Arabia will allow women to drive from next June, state media said on September 26, 2017 in a historic decision that makes the Gulf kingdom the last country in the world to permit women behind the wheel. / AFP PHOTO / REEM BAESHEN (Photo credit should read REEM BAESHEN/AFP/Getty Images)
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, checks her Instagram feed for her fashion line, Lin Collection, as she sits in a car in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, rides her bicycle in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, November 7, 2017. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES. TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY.
Saudi woman Nouf Khayat, a Zumba instructor, poses for a photo during a running event marking International Women's Day in Old Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 8, 2018. "I am a mother and a woman in this society. Finally we are capable of speaking up and of expressing our passions. The time has come to speak about the things that we can do," she said. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
A Saudi woman sits in a car during a driving training at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
Saudi women watch the first Riyadh International Marathon, Riyadh, Saudi Arabia February 24, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal al Nasser
Maryam Ahmed Al-Moalem, a Saudi female bike rider, talks to Reuters during her lessons in advanced motorbike training at Harley Davidson training centre in Manama, Bahrain, March 16, 2018. REUTERS/Hamad I Mohammed
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah University, reads a bedtime story to her children at her house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, October 23, 2017. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
A Saudi woman attends a driving training at a university in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia March 7, 2018. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, critiques one of her students' work in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 19, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah University, takes a selfie in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, applies a print to a bag she designed for a client at her house in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, looks at balloons in a shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, sits in a car with her children in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, plays basketball during the Rajana Ayamona festival in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani (C), a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, visits her parents in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, plays with her husband and children at Middle Corniche Park in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, January 27, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, sits with her father at her parents' home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, March 3, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah University, sits at her favourite coffee shop in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, October 20, 2017. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, wears a garment she designed as she plays with her son Dani at their home in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 1, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, attends a friend's birthday with her husband in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, relaxes with her husband and friends in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, November 24, 2017. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
Amirah al-Turkistani, a graphic design lecturer at Jeddah International College, shops with her children and husband at a supermarket in Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, February 3, 2018. REUTERS/Reem Baeshen SEARCH "BAESHEN WOMEN" FOR THIS STORY. SEARCH "WIDER IMAGE" FOR ALL STORIES.
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