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Who Is Ilhan Omar? New Details On The First Somali-American Elected To Congress

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Who Is Ilhan Omar? New Details On The First Somali-American Elected To Congress
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She is a former refugee.

Somali-American Ilhan Omar made history on Tuesday night when she became the first Muslim woman to win an elected office in the United States. Omar won her race for Minnesota's Fifth Congressional District. She will also be the first Somali-American in Congress. The 36-year-old Congresswoman-elect was born in Mogadishu in 1981. She grew up in Somalia as the youngest of seven children. Her mom died when she was very young and she and her siblings were raised by her father and grandfather. Who is Ilhan Omar?

1. She is a former refugee

The civil war in Somalia forced Ilhan and her family to flee the country when she was eight-years-old. The Omar family spent four years in a refugee camp in Mombasa, Kenya with tens of thousands of other people. In 1995, the Omars moved to the United States via Arlington, Virginia. That same year they moved to and settled in Minnesota. Ilhan learned to speak English in three months by watching TV. While growing up, her father and grandfather stressed the importance of democracy. She attended Edison High School in Minneapolis. She graduated from North Dakota State University with a degree in political science and international studies in 2011. 


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2. Political beginnings

Ilhan first began making waves in politics two years ago when she became the first Somali-American elected to Minnesota's state legislature. She defeated a 22-term Democratic incumbent. 

3. Firsts

Not only is Ilhan be the first Somali-Americam to be elected to national office, she is joining Rashida Tlaib, a Palestinian-American who won her Democratic primary in Michigan and ran unopposed as one of the two first Muslim women in Congress. 

4. Her district

Minnesota has the largest population of Somalis outside of Somalia. Minneapolis has a neighborhood known as "Little Mogadishu." Omar won the race for the district that includes Minneapolis and the surrounding suburbs, which is a left-leaning district. She beat Republican candidate Jennifer Zeilinski, a conservative health care worker.


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5. Her platform

Omar is a progressive Democrat. She advocates for a living wage, access to affordable housing and health care, the abolishment of ICE, protection of DACA and debt forgiveness for people struggling to pay back their student loans. She ran a grassroots campaign with more than 1,000 volunteers who were able to reach out to 100,000 voters in her district. She plans to fight President Trump's proposed travel ban, which would restrict her from traveling.


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6. Her personal life

In 2002, Ilhan got engaged to Ahmed Hirsi. They applied for a marriage license but never went through with finalizing it. They had two children together. Ilhan and Hirsi separated in 2008. In 2009, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a British citizen. In 2011, they separated and had a faith based divorce. In 2017, they legally divorced. In 2011, she reconciled with Hirsi and married him in a traditional ceremony despite the fact that she was still legally married to Elmi according to Minnesota state law. They had a third child in 2012. They legally married in 2018. The Omar-Hirsi family lives in Minneapolis.

7. Media fame

In 2017, Time named Omar one of its Firsts: Women Who Are Changing The World. The report detailed 46 women who were breaking barriers in their fields. Ilhan was on the cover of the September 18 issue of Time. In February 2018, Vogue named her family one of the "five families who are changing the world as we know it." A 2018 documentary by Norah Shapiro called Time for Ilhan was selected for the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival. 

Amy Lamare is a Los Angeles based freelance writer covering entertainment, pop culture, beauty, fashion, fitness, technology, and the intersection of technology, business, and philanthropy. She is deeply devoted to her chocolate Labrador and an avid long distance runner. You can find her on Instagram and Facebook.

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