World Keffiyeh Day: A Historical Look at The Most Powerful Palestinian Symbol
Each year on May 11, communities from across the globe commemorate World Keffiyeh Day by proudly wearing their keffiyeh. This day is meant to be a worldwide movement to show support for Palestine and to continuously remind others of the occupation. The group Solidarity for Palestinian Human Rights at Concordia University in Canada originally started this movement, and purposefully chose May 11 because of its nearness to the day of the Nakba (“catastrophe” in Arabic) on May 15.
We wear Keffiyehs on World Keffiyeh Day because we are bringing awareness to the realities of life under occupation in Palestine. We wear them to make it clear that we won’t be silent about Palestine. And we wear them because these garments are one of the most powerful and well-recognized symbols of Palestine.
Keffiyehs have long since been a part of Palestinian national identity, and especially made their mark during the British Mandate period following the first World War. During the post-Ottoman years, these garments were signifiers of nationality and resistance against British imperial rule, making them a cornerstone of identity, revolution, and solidarity.
It’s understood that the keffiyeh represents Arab solidarity, especially with Palestinians. This symbolism was solidified during the 1936 Arab Revolt, when Palestinians declared a general strike and led a rebellion against British Mandate rule. This revolt was the first of Palestine’s sustained popular uprisings against imperial power, and set the precedent for later acts of resistance with the 1976 Land Day strikes as well as the First and Second Intifadas in 1987 and 2000 respectively.
Throughout these acts of resistance, the keffiyeh became one of the main signifiers of Palestinian identity and nationhood. This popular symbol became an everyday garment for almost everyone, with farmers, merchants, and even the late President Yassir Arafat wearing keffiyehs on a regular basis to convey the message of solidarity and resistance.
On World Keffiyeh Day, we wear keffiyehs to spread this same message. We utilize this movement to bring global awareness to the occupation that Palestinians live under while showing our solidarity with Palestine.
So for May 11, wear your keffiyeh with us to show your solidarity. If you don’t have a keffiyeh just yet, consider getting one from our collection made in the last standing keffiyeh factory in Palestine. When wearing your keffiyeh, let people ask you why you wear it. Be open to conversations about Palestine with friends, families, and strangers. Collective action and visibility like this brings us closer to a free Palestine.