Rashida Tlaib Inspires Thousands of Palestinians to Pose in Traditional Dress

The Democratic representative for Michigan's 13th district, Rashida Tlaib created a social media storm by wearing a traditional Palestinian robe for her congressional swearing-in ceremony, which took place Thursday.

Tlaib—the first Palestinian-American woman to serve in Congress—donned her embroidered red-and-black thobe, a traditional Palestinian dress, for the ceremony, laying her left hand on a Koran to take her oath of office. Photos of the ceremony prompted many Palestinian-American women to show off their own traditional garments in solidarity with the Michigan congresswoman.

Related: Who is Rashida Tlaib? First Muslim woman elected to congress will be sworn in on Koran, wearing a traditional Palestinian gown

Tlaib gave a preview of the thobe in a photograph posted to Instagram in December. She wrote on the Elle magazine website that people from across the country got in touch to voice their support for her expression of cultural pride.

Fellow Palestinian-American Susan Muaddi Darraj decided to create a campaign supporting Tlaib, using the hashtag #TweetYourThobe and calling on other Palestinian-Americans to upload images of themselves in their traditional garments too.

The thobe-advocates set up a private Facebook group that gathered 8,000 members in just two weeks. On Thursday, they took to Twitter to show their support for Tlaib.

Tlaib explained that the garment is vitally important to her background and her childhood. "As a young girl, I watched my mother hand-stitch thobes while sitting on the floor with a lamp at her side. She would make the small designs of flowers and different shapes. Just thinking about it brings up so many memories of my mother and how proud she was of being Palestinian," Tlaib wrote on Elle.

"My mom is a woman who grew up in a small farming village in the West Bank called Beit Ur El Foka. She only went up to 8th grade and then dropped out to go work in a tailor shop that made dresses and different embroidered designs to make money for her family."

Tlaib said that donning the thobe for her ceremony was "an unapologetic display of the fabric of the people in this country."

The elaborate thobe can take many months to create, according to NPR, and the most intricate examples sell for more than $1,000. Its status as a traditional Palestinian garment has also made it a potent symbol of Palestinian nationalism.

In 2009, for example, Palestinian women in the West Bank city of Hebron created a black and red thobe 107 feet in length hoping to get into the Guinness World Records, the BBC reported.

"Show everyone who you are, your heritage, and what your stand for," Tlaib wrote on Elle. "We should embrace who we are and not be shamed for it. Too often in this country, recently and throughout history, groups of people have been marginalized, harmed, and even killed for being different. This must change, and we can change this together."

Below are just a few examples of the women who took to Twitter to show their support for Tlaib, and their own thobes.

Every thobe is a dress embroidered with the stories, the loves, the tragedies of Palestinian women. The world will never be broken, because we will always stitch it back together & make it beautiful. #tweetyourthobe#palestinianwomen#palestinianamerican#rashidatlaib#congress pic.twitter.com/glNazfgHcL

— Susan Muaddi Darraj (@SusanDarraj) January 3, 2019

Today @RashidaTlaib will be sworn into Congress wearing a Palestinian Thobe just like the one I’m dancing Dabkeh in below— count one young Palestinian woman with a lump in her throat thinking about how far our people have come. #TweetYourThobe pic.twitter.com/mZ0lxGBTgR

— Shezza Abboushi Dallal (@ShezzaADallal) January 3, 2019

This article has been updated to correct a misspelling of Rashida Tlaib.