Around the neck, over the head, draped down the back, pinned into hair, wrapped around a face — there are many ways to style a kaffiyeh, the square checkered scarf traditionally worn in parts of the Middle East.
The black-and-white version in particular has become a badge of Palestinian identity, with many Palestinians wearing it at events like weddings and graduations. The kaffiyeh has also been adopted by Palestinians as a symbol of their aspiration and long struggle for independence, making it divisive to those who associate it with the fighting involved in that struggle.
Since the start of the Israel-Hamas War, as demonstrations have cropped up globally in support of Palestinian civilians in Gaza, some Palestinians have been encouraging non-Palestinians to embrace the kaffiyeh as a symbol of unity, and to wear it as a show of solidarity.
At a march for Gaza in Lower Manhattan on Oct. 26, kaffiyehs were worn by a diverse group carrying Palestinian flags. Three men, who were sandwiched between two halal carts, prayed on top of a kaffiyeh in lieu of a prayer mat.
Binh Ly, 33, who had a black-and-white kaffiyeh around his neck, said he hadn’t been sure if he could wear the scarf until he talked about it with a Palestinian friend. “She gave me permission,” said Mr. Ly, who is Vietnamese and lives in Queens. His parents, he added, fled to the United States because of the Vietnam War.
Ivanna Rodriguez-Rojas, a 24-year-old who lives in Manhattan, had a black-and-white kaffiyeh around her head at the protest. She said she also didn’t know that Palestinian people encouraged non-Palestinian people to wear the scarf until she saw a recent post on X, formerly Twitter, shared by Fatima Saleh, a 38-year-old Palestinian who lives in Edmonton, Canada.
“Yes anyone can wear it! Your solidarity means everything to us,” the post read.