Samera Abed at Art Basel Miami Beach, where she wore an all-black outfit in a gesture of mourning for Palestinian lives lost (all photos courtesy Samera Abed)

A Palestinian-American woman visiting Art Basel Miami Beach on opening day last Wednesday, December 6, was asked to remove her veil and beaded face accessory.

Art advisor and artist Samera Abed told Hyperallergic that she had been walking around the fair, housed inside the Miami Beach Convention Center, for over five hours when she was approached by a member of the show’s security team. The guard instructed her to remove both the sheer veil she was wearing over her face and hair and the gold-beaded jewelry adorning her nose, mouth, and forehead. When she told the security guard that she would prefer to leave the fair, he allegedly replied that if she did not remove the accessories immediately she would be escorted out of the premises.

Abed wrote the word “HUMANITY” on her chest and leg.

“What happened to freedom of speech and wearing what you want? They were so irritated by my Middle East vibe,” said Abed, who wore an all-black outfit to the fair in a gesture of mourning for the more than 18,000 Palestinian people killed by Israel in Gaza over the last two months. She had also written the word “HUMANITY” on her chest and leg. “This was pure discrimination.”

In response to Hyperallergic‘s request for comment, a representative for Art Basel said the security guard had erroneously believed Abed’s accessories violated the fair’s security protocol around full face coverings.

“This was a mistake in interpretation of our policy. We have since reminded our security personnel of our policies accordingly. We apologize for the misunderstanding and any inconvenience caused,” the spokesperson said.

Abed said she complied with the guard’s request and shed her veil and jewelry before exiting the fair. As she confronted a different member of the security team outside the show entrance to complain about the incident, an Art Basel attendant overheard the conversation and apologetically offered a complimentary ticket.

“But I said, ‘It’s too late.’ I was embarrassed and humiliated,” said Abed, who believes she was targeted for “wearing my heritage clothing, for signaling that I’m from this specific culture.”

The Council on American-Islamic Relations has reported a rise in anti-Arab and anti-Muslim bias incidents in the United States in the months since the October 7 attack by Hamas, which killed 1,200 Israelis and resulted in the capture of over 230 hostages of which dozens were released in two prisoner exchanges in late November. Earlier this month, a passenger on an American Airlines flight was reportedly asked to remove or conceal his “Palestine” sweatshirt, sparking outrage and solidarity after Palestinian-American Congresswoman Rashida Tlaib publicly denounced the airline.

Displays of support for the Palestinian cause in a protest outside Art Basel last week also prompted a letter of concern from Miami Beach Mayor Steven Meiner. In the memorandum, sent today, December 13, Meiner called on the City of Miami and its police department to reevaluate “parameters for reasonable time, place, and manner restrictions for protests” and “discussions of incitement to violence versus free speech” in the wake of the action. The heavily policed demonstration, organized by an ad-hoc group of cultural workers as well as representatives from Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP), saw the arrest of two activists including one minor for “disorderly conduct,” the nature of which has not yet been publicly specified.

Valentina Di Liscia is the News Editor at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...