In November, Rashida Tlaib made history as the first Palestinian and one of the two Muslim women elected in US Congress. She was sworn into the House of Representatives on Thursday (on Thomas Jefferson’s Qur’an, notably), and for the occasion, decided to wear a traditional thobe from her motherland.
The new congresswoman from Michigan arrived on Capitol Hill wearing a black, traditional Palestinian thobe adorned with red, hand-stitched embroidery, known as tatreez. She made the announcement via an Instagram post in December. “Sneak peek: This is what I am wearing when I am sworn into Congress,” she wrote on Instagram alongside an image of a traditional red and black hand-embroidered dress, with the hashtags #PalestinianThobe and #ForMyYama.
Tlaib’s bold decision to wear the traditional garment sparked a new Twitter hashtag #TweetYourThobe, in which droves of Palestinian-American women around the country took to the social media platform to upload photos of themselves wearing their own garments.
The daughter of Palestinian immigrants who hail from Beit Our al-Foqa, a village in the West Bank, Tlaib ran unopposed on the general election ballot following her primary win. The Democrat, who served in Michigan’s state legislature from 2009 to 2014 before working as an attorney, is also known for disrupting a speech given by then-presidential nominee Donald Trump two years ago. She will fill the seat formerly occupied by Michigan Democratic Rep. John Conyers, who left office last year.
Following her win, Tlaib, who has actively campaigned her roots, draped herself in a Palestinian flag during a celebration rally in Michigan. She wasn’t the only new US representative to don a traditional garment for Thursday’s swearing-in ceremony. New Mexico’s Debra Haaland, one of the first two Native American women to join Congress, also wore a traditional Pueblo dress.
She joins Ilhan Omar as one of two Muslim women elected in US Congress. Omar, who ran as her state’s Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party’s nominee, secured the seat vacated by Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison, who became the first Muslim elected to the United States House of Representatives. The Somali-born Democrat, who grew up in a Kenyan refugee camp before fleeing to America aged 12, also made history as the first African refugee and hijab-wearing woman to serve in Congress, overcoming an almost 200-year headwear ban in The House.
Both Tlaib and Omar ran progressive platforms in their primary races, including access to affordable housing and health care for all, a US $15 minimum wage, increasing the number of refugees admitted to the United States, and the abolishment of ICE, to become the Democratic nominee.