This June, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is putting women in the driving seat – and so are we. https://t.co/CaOwxsdQQI— Vogue Arabia (@VogueArabia) May 30, 2018
On June 24, Saudi women will finally be able to drive cars.
It's a small change but momentous for the women living in the ultraconservative Gulf kingdom, which is notorious for its stranglehold on women's rights.
The lifting of the ban comes after years of defiance, protests, arrests, harassment and petitions by activists. Finally, the moment they had fought for, for so long, is here.
In order to celebrate the historic day, Vogue Arabia unveiled its June edition, which celebrates "the trailblazing women of Saudi Arabia."
On its cover, however, the magazine features Princess Hayfa Bint Abdullah Al Saud, the daughter of the late King Abdullah. She is a renowned professional artist who supports the recent wave of progressive change in Saudi Arabia.
However, to credit her with "embodying this new era of female empowerment," could be a stretch — especially considering the fact that women's rights activists, who campaigned against the driving ban, were imprisoned.
Just a month before the lifting of the driving ban, Saudi authorities arrested nearly a dozen prominent activists, mostly women, who pushed for progressive reforms in the kingdom, for years.
The same reforms are now finally being implemented and widely credited to Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.
One of the most prominent detainees is Loujain al-Hathloul, who was arrested for 73 days after she attempted to drive from the U.A.E. into Saudi Arabia in 2014.
What's even more troubling is the lack of transparency surrounding the arrests. The authorities have only provided murky details as to the charges the detainees face. They have been accused of "suspicious contact with foreign parties", as well as aiding hostile nations "security and stability". State media even branded them as "traitors."
They could face up to 20 years in prison, if found guilty.
It's ironic how the Saudi monarchy, under the de-facto leadership of the crown prince, claims to be evolving on women's rights, yet, continues to jail women's rights activists.
To be precise, it's not ironic, it's hypocritical.
Besides Princess Hayfa Bint Abdullah Al Saud, Vogue also interviewed Manal al-Sharif, the activist who filmed a video of herself defying the driving ban, which landed her nine days in prison, and Saja Kamal, a Saudi soccer player and women’s rights advocate.
But the magazine's decision to portray a member of the Saudi monarchy as the face of Saudi women's rights is a bit odd, considering the monarchy is responsible for imprisoning women who actually fought for change, for many years.
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