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.
The magazine has been labelled “tone deaf” by critics because several of these activists remain in custody.
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.
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“Informing and initiating healthy debates around meaningful topics are a priority for us, and we therefore decided to emphasise this with an iconic and powerful image that is completely fulfilling its purpose: bring focus to the region and to the role of women in Saudi society,” Mr Arnaut said in a statement sent to the BBC.
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 BBC’s Arab Affairs editor Sebastian Usher said 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.
Vogue defends Saudi princess cover after backlash}