Saudi Arabia is not driving change it is trying to hoodwink the west | Arwa Mahdawi
The country has hoisted its forbid on female motorists, but this is a rebrand , not a revolution. Yet many governments and media outlets are being taken in
If I realize one more article about Saudi girls being able to drive I am going to hurl myself under a vehicle. Dont get me wrong, I am glad Saudi Arabia has hoisted “the worlds” simply censor on women driving.
But I am also worried. Rather than being a meaningful stair towards progression, just as much of the coverage intimates, the reversal of the driving proscription is quite the opposite. Permitting girls behind the wheel is a PR move by Saudi Arabia, designed not to modernise the realm, but to render a dictatorial regiman more palatable. Yet many western media stores seem to be falling for this strategic women-washing, as you are able to call it, hook, line and blinker.
Last month, Saudi Arabia locked up a number of womens rights campaigners. At midnight on Sunday, when some Saudi females took to the roads for the first time, six high-profile activists who expended years campaigning for that right sat in Saudi Arabian incarcerates, accused according to testimonies in government media reported by Amnesty International of contact with foreign entities with the objective of undercutting the countrys stability and social fabric.
The irony of Saudi Arabia jailing womens rights activists at the same time as it hoisted its driving injunction did not proceed unacknowledged by the media. Nonetheless, the jailed activists were the secondary tale.
Most headlines have played into the narrative of reform that the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, has been pushing. This weeks embrace of the Economist, for example, read The Saudi revolution begins, alongside a cute visual of a niqab with auto wheels representing a woman’s eyes. But “were not receiving” revolution happening in the middle Saudi Arabia. What is happening is a rebrand.
It was reported last year that Saudi Arabia was setting up global public relations hubs to improve its international image amid its bombing of Yemen and its embargo of Qatar. Well, the Saudi PR machine has been very busy indeed. When Prince Mohammed inspected the UK in March, he was accompanied by a massive advertising campaign. Messages such as He is empowering Saudi Arabian wives encompassed billboards and taxis. They even appeared in the Guardian.
Saudi Arabia’s messaging levels ought to have regurgitated by the media, too. In November, Thomas Friedman wrote what was essentially a puff piece about Prince Mohammed in the New York Times, named Saudi Arabias Arab Spring, at Last.
Then, in March, Prince Mohammed appeared on CBSs 60 Minutes, his first interview with an American television network. He is liberating wives, introducing music and cinema and cracking down on corruption, in a land with 15,000 lords, announced the introduced by an extremely softball interview.
In the 30 -minute segment, merely a couple were devoted to Yemen, and these were glossed over promptly. After all, who wants to talk about war crimes and dead Yemenis when you can talk about cinemas and women driving? Particularly when the US and the UK are complicit in Saudi Arabia’s disastrous struggle in Yemen.
That is the salient phase here. Ultimately, the celebratory coverage around Saudi Arabia lifting its driving ban is a reflection of the fact that it is in the west’s best interest for the kingdom to be painted in a good lighting.
It is terribly inconvenient, after all, to be recognized that your lucrative trading partner, whose conflict struggles you are backing, is an abusive, despotic regiman. Far better to focus on lovely photos of women in cars.