Ilhan Omar’s daughter suspended by Columbia University for Gaza protest

Congresswoman Omar had previously expressed her support for the protests at Columbia

Richard Hall
Thursday 18 April 2024 22:32 BST
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Ilhan Omar’s daughter, Isra Hirsi, said she had been suspended from Barnard College, Columbia University, for taking part in a protest encampment over the Gaza war and the university’s investments in Israel.

Dozens of students had camped out for two days at the university campus before police moved in on Thursday morning to dismantle some of the tents. Police made numerous arrests, but students continued to arrive at the scene into Thursday evening.

The suspension came just one day after congresswoman Omar had grilled the university’s president about the targeting of pro-Palestinian protesters at a congressional hearing on Wednesday.

“i’m an organizer with CU Apartheid Divest @ColumbiaSJP, in my 3 years at @BarnardCollege i have never been reprimanded or received any disciplinary warnings,” Ms Hirsi wrote on X.

“i just received notice that i am 1 of 3 students suspended for standing in solidarity with Palestinians facing a genocide,” she added.

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)

She wrote in a separate post: “those of us in Gaza Solidarity Encampment will not be intimidated. we will stand resolute until our demands are met. our demands include divestment from companies complicit in genocide, transparency of @Columbia’s investments and FULL amnesty for all students facing repression.”

Congresswoman Omar has previously expressed support for the protesting students, writing that Coliumbia had “an incredible history of students fighting for a more just world.”

Videos posted to social media on Thursday appeared to show NYPD officers arresting some members of the encampment.

Barnard College said in a statement that it had sent written warnings to its students taking part in the encampment that they would be suspended if they did not leave by 9pm on 17 April.

“This morning, April 18, we started to place identified Barnard students remaining in the encampment on interim suspension, and we will continue to do so,” the statement said.

“Now and always, we prioritize our students’ learning and living in an inclusive environment free from harassment,” it added.

A Columbia University spokesperson told The Independent: “Students who are participating in the unauthorized encampment are suspended. We are continuing to identify them and will be sending out formal notifications.”

The suspension comes after the president of Columbia University, Nemat Shafik, was grilled by Ms Omar on Wednesday during a Congressional hearing on what the congresswoman described as the “targeting” of pro-Palestinian protesters on campus by private investigators hired by the university.

Ms Shafik said the case referred to by Ms Omar related to students who held an online call with “people who were inciting violence.”

The hearing in the House of Representatives was focused on antisemitism on campus.

As arrests started on Thursday, Dr Shafik released a statement saying she “had to make a decision that I hoped would never be necessary”.

“Out of an abundance of concern for the safety of Columbia’s campus, I authorized the New York Police Department to begin clearing the encampment from the South Lawn of Morningside campus that had been set up by students in the early hours of Wednesday morning,” she added.

“I took this extraordinary step because these are extraordinary circumstances. The individuals who established the encampment violated a long list of rules and policies,” she wrote.

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