Ilhan Omar’s daughter claims she’s ‘homeless and hungry’ after Columbia suspension over pro-Palestine protests

Protest entered its sixth day on Monday

Graig Graziosi
Monday 22 April 2024 16:18 BST
Related video: Pro-Palestine protesters occupy Columbia university lawn

Congresswoman Ilhan Omar's daughter said that she has been left homeless and hungry after being reportedly suspended from Columbia University for participating in protests against Israel's war in Gaza.

Isra Hirsi said that she and two of her classmates from Barnard College at Columbia were the first of nearly 100 students to be suspended over pro-Palestine protests.

Ms Hirsi made the comments in article published in Teen Vogue on Sunday.

Students from Columbia opposed to ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza gathered last Wednesday to form an "encampment" on the New York school’s south lawn.

On Thursday morning, approximately 24 hours after the camp formed, dozens of students including Ms Hirsi were arrested when Columbia President Minouche Shafik authorised the NYPD to forcibly shut down the demonstration.

“We had so many people who were born female in our group that they didn’t have enough space for us. It was a very slow process in getting everybody into the cells,” Ms Hirsi told the magazine.

Isra Hirsi was suspended from Barnard College, Columbia University, over her participation in an encampment protest over the war in Gaza
Isra Hirsi was suspended from Barnard College, Columbia University, over her participation in an encampment protest over the war in Gaza (@peoplesdispatch/X)

Ms Hirsi said that police kept her zip-tied for around seven hours and that she was released after eight hours in custody.

Ms Hirsi said that because she was suspended for participating in the protest, her building access was shut off, locking her out of on-campus housing, and all of her possessions within.

“I was a little bit frantic, like, where am I going to sleep? Where am I gonna go? And also all of my s*** is thrown in a random lot. It’s pretty horrible,” she said. “I don't know when I can go home, and I don’t know if I ever will be able to.”

In addition to living in dorms, the student also ate the majority of her meals at the campus’s dining hall.

Pro-Palestinian activists protest outside Columbia University in New York this weekend
Pro-Palestinian activists protest outside Columbia University in New York this weekend (AFP via Getty Images)

“I sent them an email like, ‘Hey, I rely on campus for my meals, I rely on my dining plan,’ and they were like, Oh, you can come pick up a prepackaged bag of food, a full 48 hours after I was suspended. There was no food support, no nothing,” she told the magazine.

Members of “The Squad”, a group of progressive Democrats including Rep. Omar, criticized Columbia’s treatment of the suspended students.

“What is going on here @BarnardCollege @Columbia?” Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez wrote. “How does a student with no disciplinary record suddenly get to a suspension less than 24 hours after a nonviolent protest? What merits asymmetric crackdowns on Palestinian human rights protests?”

Michigan Rep. Rashida Tlaib called it “apalling” that students across the country were being reprimanded for protesting “genocide.”

“From UM to Vanderbilt to USC to Columbia, students across our country are being retaliated against for using their constitutional rights to protest genocide,” she said. “It’s appalling.”

The Independent has reached out to Columbia/Barnard College for comment.

Ms Hirsi also told Teen Vogue that she wanted people to pay less attention to news about protesters and more attention to what is happening in Gaza.

“The whole point of the encampment was to shed light on Columbia’s complicity in genocide and to focus back on the folks in Gaza,” she said.

Tensions have been high across some US colleges, schools and workplaces since the 7 October terror attack on Israel by Hamas, and Israel’s subsequent war on Hamas in Gaza, which has killed tens of thousands of Palestinian civilians.

On Monday, Columbia moved classes online amid growing tensions as some Jewish students said they feel unsafe on campus.

Columbia president Ms Shafik said that the school would hold virtual classes to “deescalate the rancor and give us all a chance to consider next steps”.

“Faculty and staff who can work remotely should do so; essential personnel should report to work according to university policy,” the president said in a statement . “Our preference is that students who do not live on campus will not come to campus.”

Barriacades were still up on Columbia’s south lawn on Monday. Security patrols were reportedly checking the IDs of anyone on campus Monday morning.

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in