Social media networks were flooded with odes to Palestinian grandmothers over the weekend, as Palestinians from across the diaspora shared photos and stories of their family matriarchs with the hashtag #MyPalestinianSitty.
The hashtag took off after US Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib took to Twitter to express her sadness over the fact that she would be unable to visit her grandmother, or sitty in Arabic, after Israel banned her and congresswoman Ilhan Omar from entering the country on the basis of their support for the BDS movement.
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) August 19, 2019
“This woman right here is my sity,” Tlaib wrote, alongside a photo of her smiling maternal grandmother on the streets of Ramallah.
“She deserves to live in peace & with human dignity. I am who I am because of her. The decision by Israel to bar her granddaughter, a U.S. Congresswoman, is a sign of weakness b/c the truth of what is happening to Palestinians is frightening.”
In a subsequent tweet, Tlaib told her followers that she would be refusing Israel’s offer — which she initially accepted — to visit her grandmother under “humanitarian” circumstances, which would have prevented her from publicly engaging in or discussing anything political about Israel-Palestine.
“When I won, it gave the Palestinian people hope that someone will finally speak the truth about the inhumane conditions. I can’t allow the State of Israel to take away that light by humiliating me & use my love for my sity to bow down to their oppressive & racist policies,” Tlaib said.
Silencing me & treating me like a criminal is not what she wants for me. It would kill a piece of me. I have decided that visiting my grandmother under these oppressive conditions stands against everything I believe in–fighting against racism, oppression & injustice. https://t.co/z5t5j3qk4H
— Rashida Tlaib (@RashidaTlaib) August 16, 2019
Following the series of tweets from Tlaib, hundreds of people, primarily Palestinians in the diaspora, began posting photos of their grandmothers alongside the hashtag #MyPalestinianSitty.
In their tweets, Facebook, and Instagram posts, people shared emotional stories of their grandmothers surviving war, ethnic cleansing, and life in exile.
Meet #MyPalestinianSitty Fatma. She witnessed the 48 war, 56 occupation of Gaza,67 reoccupation of Gaza,78 invasion of Lebanon, 82 invasion of Lebanon, 1st & 2nd Intifadas, 3 major Israeli attacks on Gaza, & 13 years of blockade w/6 hours of electricity a day. She still smiles🙂 pic.twitter.com/oHZIq1htMx
— Jehad Abusalim جهاد أبو سليم (@JehadAbusalim) August 18, 2019
#MyPalestinianSitty survived the Deir Yassin massacre, the first village that was ransacked before the Nakba strikes with the purpose to set an example for other Palestinian villages if they didn’t surrender. Out of 600 villagers, over 200 were murdered. We will never forget. pic.twitter.com/5BNum6GeqF
— ameer al-khatahtbeh (@boysaint) August 18, 2019
My green-eyed grandmother Halima, a woman whose ferocious love for her nine children outweighed much of the suffering she witnessed in her life, beginning from being ethnically cleansed from her village of Falujah.#MyPalestinianSitty pic.twitter.com/vuaJ5353MG
— لينة (@LinahAlsaafin) August 18, 2019
#MyPalestinianSitty was my best friend. She was born in Yaffa, Palestine in 1927. She was forced to flee in 1948 & took her children to Lebanon as refugees. She passed this last April. I will go to Yaffa soon & bring sand back to her grave to honor her ❤️ pic.twitter.com/PraI5kaYVR
— نوال (@spiderqueen420) August 18, 2019
#MyPalestinianSitty fled to Jordan in 1967, on foot, with 8 of her children. Although she died never able to return to Palestine, she carried her people and her culture everywhere she went. She was the strongest, funniest and most courageous woman I’ve ever known. #RIPTeta pic.twitter.com/iNAEVBJNIc
— Ramy Daoud (@RamyTheGiant) August 18, 2019
As tweets poured in and the hashtag began trending on Twitter, Tlaib began retweeting people’s stories, and shared more photos of her maternal and paternal grandmothers.
Many also took the chance to voice their solidarity and thanks to Tlaib, who they say has given their identities as Palestinians and their families’ stories unprecedented recognition on the international stage.
In honor of @RashidaTlaib, here is the sitty of Izzy Mustafa, AJP's Communications Strategist: This is my sitty. My guardian angel. A fierce Palestinian woman who shows me unconditional love every day. I carry her strength & humor with me everywhere I go. #MyPalestinianSitty pic.twitter.com/8n92cE9jOl
— Adalah Justice Project (@AdalahJustice) August 18, 2019
— Adam Abusalah (@adam_abusalah) August 18, 2019
The hashtag gained attention from mainstream news networks like NBC and CNN, while prominent Palestinian-American activists like Linda Sarsour and Remi Kanazi, California congressional candidate Ammar Campa-Najjar, and Palestinian government leaders like Hanan Ashrawi also shared their own stories.
#MyPalestinianSitty was killed in her own home 16 yrs before I was born. She never hurt a soul.
The last memory her children have of her is stepping over her to get to the doorway.
I honor her by choosing peace over violence & progress over bitterness.
I’m a prisoner of hope. pic.twitter.com/aYYXrpHvWO
— Ammar Campa-Najjar (@ACampaNajjar) August 19, 2019
#MyPalestinianSitty Teta Farha in Ramallah around 1925; sadly she died shortly after this photo was taken. My step grandmother, Teta Zareefeh, lovingly raised all nine of her children. She died in 1967 during the war. Palestinian women are truly the salt of the earth. pic.twitter.com/Zk6iBIV6QZ
— Hanan Ashrawi (@DrHananAshrawi) August 18, 2019
— Linda Sarsour (@lsarsour) August 18, 2019
Ilhan Omar took to Twitter to say she was “overcome with emotions” after the hashtag began trending and upon realizing “how we are finally humanizing one of the world’s most dehumanized peoples.”
#MyPalestinianSitty is trending and I am overcome with emotions realizing how we are finally humanizing one of the world’s most dehumanized peoples.
— Ilhan Omar (@IlhanMN) August 18, 2019