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As Saudi Women Activists Suffer Horrific Torture, Kingdom Puts Women In Cockpits + Main Cabin

Photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia, December 2018.

Photographed by Domen / Van De Velde for Vogue Arabia, December 2018.

The kingdom of Saudi Arabia is promising to not only put women in the cockpit as co-pilots but to train them as flight attendants as well. In January, 2018 Eqbal Darandari, a member of the Saudi Shura Council, called on national airlines to empower women by creating jobs. “We’ve seen Saudi women piloting aircraft outside the kingdom. Now it’s time for [Saudi Arabia’s aviation authority] to take the initiative. Saudi women deserve to find work in their own country,” he said at the time. 

Soon Saudi Arabia’s Oxford Aviation Academy opened it doors to women to train them as pilots. Six months later, Flynas, a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia, announced that it would be hiring female flight attendants after proper training. In the new year, a Saudi air hostess will fly this month, in another move forward for the severely-limited in rights Saudi women, writes Vogue Arabia.

The magazine’s website writes that Flynas will also hire women as co-pilots. “The move aims to enable Saudi women to have a greater role in supporting the Kingdom’s economy,” stated Bander Al-Mohanna, CEO of Flynas.

Yasmine al-Maymany  is among the certified Saudi women pilots  who told AlArabia in August 2018  that she hoped to soon be in the cockpit with a job sanctioned by the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Yasmine al-Maymany is among the certified Saudi women pilots who told AlArabia in August 2018 that she hoped to soon be in the cockpit with a job sanctioned by the Saudi General Authority of Civil Aviation.

Moves Toward Vision 2030, Yet Activists Tortured

This welcome move forward for Saudi women seeking jobs in aviation comes after the June 2018 lifting of Saudi Arabia’s decades-old driving ban on female motorists. The lifting of the longstanding driving ban was part of Vision 2030, a post-oil blueprint for Saudi helmed by Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman that aims to, among diversifying the Kingdom’s economy away from oil, increase the percentage of women in the nation’s workforce from 22% to 30%.

This charm offensive by Saudi officials does not negate the reality that Human Rights WatchAmnesty International, and international media outlets have received reports that Saudi authorities have tortured and abused at least four detained female activists using electric shocks, whippings, and forcibly hugging and kissing them. At least one of the women reportedly attempted to commit suicide multiple times.

While several nations have condemned Saudi Arabia and Sheik Mohammed bin Salman for the brutal, horrific murder of Washington Post journalist and Saudi critique Jamal Khashoggi by the Prince and his henchmen, very little has been said about the roundup of female rights activists in the kindgom.

Those arrested included Loujain al-Hathloul, a leading figure in the movement to lift the driving ban; and Samar Badawi, an internationally recognized campaigner against Saudi Arabia’s discriminatory male guardianship system, under which women require the permission of a male relative to travel, marry, or work in certain jobs. Samar is the sister of liberal blogger Raif Badawi, who in 2015 was sentenced to 10 years in prison and 1,000 lashes for his writings and languishes in a Saudi prison.