Since becoming Saudi Arabia’s crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman has pushed a new public relations vision of a country in which women are free to drive, attend sporting matches and enjoy live music. But the arrest and torture of feminist activists, oppression of queer people, enduring male-guardianship laws and murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi reveal a darker truth. Four Corners reporter Sophie McNeill joins Australian-based Saudi Manal al-Sharif – founder of the #WomenToDrive movement – and street artist, PhD candidate and creator of #IAmMyOwnGuardian, Ms Saffaa, to discuss women’s and queer rights in Saudi Arabia, experiences in the country, self-exile and hopes for the future.

This event is part of the Thinking Globally series, supported by UNSW Arts & Social Sciences

Manal al-Sharif (Australian)

Manal al-Sharif

Manal al-Sharif is a prominent voice advocating for women's rights in the Muslim and the Arab worlds. Named by the TIME as one of the 100 most influential people in the world, her memoir Daring to Drive: A Saudi Woman Awakening, is an intimate story of her life growing up in Saudi Arabia. She was the first Saudi woman to specialise in Information Security, working with the largest oil company in the world. She has presented at events at Harvard, the United Nations, UNESCO, Oslo Freedom Forum, The Arab Institue in Paris, the Center for International and Strategic Studies, Clinton Initiative, Women in the World, and many others. She is a regular contributor to international media, including NewsWeek, The New York Times, The Washington Post, and is a regular columnist in Democracy Post by The Washington Post.

Ms Saffaa (Australian)

Ms Saffaa

Ms Saffaa is an artist and activist from Saudi Arabia. She was reported to the Saudi authorities when one of her artworks went viral in 2016, and has since become a political dissident. Her work was recently on display at the US Congress. She is shortlisted for the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression award. She is a PhD candidate at the University of Sydney and hopes to one day publish her memoir.

Sophie McNeill (Australian)

Sophie McNeill

Sophie McNeill is the ABC's former Middle East correspondent. She has twice been awarded Australian Young TV Journalist of the Year and has won three Walkleys for her reporting. Her work has highlighted the killing of five children in Afghanistan by Australian Special Forces soldiers, children starving to death in Syria and alleged war crimes committed by the Saudi coalition in Yemen. Sophie’s first book We Can’t Say We Didn’t Know will be published in mid 2019.