Rupi Kaur turned down an invitation from the Biden administration for a Diwali event due to the U.S. government continuing its support of Israel during its bombardment of Gaza.
“I implore my South Asian community to hold this administration accountable,” the poet wrote in a statement on X, formerly known as Twitter. “As a Sikh woman, I will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing this administration’s actions. I refuse any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population — 50% of whom are children.”
Kaur said she was invited to a Diwali event to be held on Nov. 8 hosted by Vice President Kamala Harris. Diwali is a South Asian heritage celebration, Kaur wrote on X, that is of “righteousness over falsehood and knowledge over ignorance.”
But Kaur said she could not attend the event at the White House knowing the administration is helping fund the “bombardment of Gaza” and continuing to “justify this genocide against Palestinians — regardless of how many refugee camps, health facilities, and places of worship are blown to bits.”
The death toll in Gaza from Israeli strikes has exceeded 10,000 people as of Monday, according to Palestinian health authorities. A United Nations official said that nearly 70% of the dead are women and children.
Israel began its siege against the militant group Hamas, which governs in Gaza, following the group’s Oct. 7 attack that left 1,400 dead, according to the Israeli government. Hamas also captured over 200 hostages. The U.S. has vowed to supply Israel with missiles and bombs.
“As a community, we cannot remain silent or agreeable just to get a seat at the table. It comes at too high a cost to human life,” Kaur wrote on X. “Many of my contemporaries have told me in private that what’s happening in Gaza is awful, but they aren’t going to risk their livelihood or ‘a chance at creating change from the inside.’ There is no magical change that will happen from being on the inside. We must be brave. We must not be tokenized by their photo-ops. The privilege we lose from speaking up is nothing compared to what Palestinians lose each day because this administration rejects a ceasefire.”
Democratic Reps. Rashida Tlaib (Mich.), Cori Bush (Mo.), Summer Lee (Pa.), André Carson (Ind.) and Delia Ramirez (Ill.) introduced a resolution in the House that “urges support for an end to violence in Israel and Occupied Palestine.” Last week, President Joe Biden called for a humanitarian “pause” in the fighting.
Kaur went viral in 2015 for her college project where she posted photos on Instagram showing her clothes and bedsheets stained with period blood. While the project was meant to “demystify the period and make something that is innate ‘normal’ again,” Instagram removed the photos briefly, but then after receiving backlash, the platform apologized and restored the images to Kaur’s profile.