Poet Rupi Kaur rejects White House invitation to attend Diwali celebration

Rupi Kaur. PHOTO: Twitter @rupikaur

Poet Rupi Kaur rejected an invitation from the White House to attend a Diwali celebration hosted by Vice President Harris.

In a statement Monday, Kaur said she denied the offer because of the Biden administration’s support for Israel’s war against Hamas, which has killed thousands of people in the Gaza Strip, a campaign she deemed “genocide.” She also denounced the White House for not advocating a cease-fire.

“I’m surprised this administration finds it acceptable to celebrate Diwali, when their support of the current atrocities against Palestinians represent the exact opposite of what this holiday means to many of us,” she wrote in a statement posted on X, formerly Twitter.

She added: “I refuse any invitation from an institution that supports the collective punishment of a trapped civilian population.”

The Biden administration says it has pushed Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to allow “humanitarian pauses,” not a cease-fire, to safely move aid into the blockaded Gaza Strip.

Kaur said she often uses the Diwali holiday “to reflect on what it means to fight for freedom against oppression.”

Harris is scheduled to host a Diwali celebration Wednesday at the Naval Observatory. The vice president’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The Canadian poet called on the South Asian community to hold the Biden administration accountable amid the Israel-Gaza war, saying she “will not allow my likeness to be used in whitewashing the administration’s actions.”

“We must not be tokenized by their photo-ops,” she added.

Kaur’s statement, which was also posted to Instagram, drew support from her followers. Actress Richa Moorjani said she would also boycott the event, and Brown Girl Magazine said it had declined an invitation.

“Thank you for being a voice we can count on,” the magazine commented.

Toronto-based poet and artist Kaur went viral in 2015 for a photo series she made with her sister about menstruation. Her poetry collection “Milk and Honey,” which was released in 2015 after first being self-published, became a No. 1 New York Times bestseller in 2017 and has sold more than 3 million copies.

Her statement comes days after thousands protested in Washington and outside the White House in support of Palestinian rights, demanding a cease-fire for the Gaza Strip and the end of American support for Israel.

Palestinian health authorities said Monday that at least 10,000 people have died in Gaza since Hamas militants killed more than 1,400 people in Israel on Oct. 7. The Biden administration says that it has worked with Israel to increase humanitarian shipments into Gaza and that it expects more aid to arrive within the next few days. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is optimistic that the United States could push Israel to embrace “humanitarian pauses” in Gaza, though Netanyahu has resisted such calls and won’t allow a cease-fire before Hamas releases its hostages.

Representatives for Kaur did not immediately respond to requests for comment.



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