Ilhan Omar

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Ilhan Omar
File:Ilhan Omar, official portrait, 116th Congress.jpg
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 5th district
Assumed office
January 3, 2019
Preceded by Keith Ellison
Member of the Minnesota House of Representatives
from the 60B district
In office
January 2, 2017 – January 3, 2019
Preceded by Phyllis Kahn
Succeeded by Mohamud Noor
Personal details
Born Ilhan Abdullahi Omar
(1981-10-04) October 4, 1981 (age 40)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Political party Democratic
Spouse(s) Ahmed Nur Said Elmi (m. 2009; div. 2017)
Ahmed Hirsi (m. 2018)
Children 3
Education North Dakota State University (BA)
Website House website

Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (born October 4, 1981) is a far-left Somali-American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota's 5th congressional district since 2019. The district is based in Minneapolis and also includes Edina, Richfield, St. Louis Park, Robbinsdale, Golden Valley and Fridley.

Omar was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016 on the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party line, which made her the first Somali American elected to legislative office in the United States.[1] On November 6, 2018, she became the first naturalized citizen from Africa and first Somali-American elected to the United States Congress. Along with Rashida Tlaib, she was one of the first two Muslim women elected to Congress and the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. representative from Minnesota.[2][3][4]

A member of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, Omar has advocated for a living wage, affordable housing and healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and the abolition of ICE. She has strongly opposed the immigration policies of the Trump administration, including the Trump travel ban. Omar has also been outspoken on the Israeli–Palestinian conflict, criticizing Israel's settlement policy and military campaigns and the influence of pro-Israeli lobbying organizations such as AIPAC.

Early life and education

There are many doubts surrounding her origin. According to the official story Omar was born on October 4, 1981, in Mogadishu[5] and spent her early years in Baydhabo, Somalia.[6][7] She was the youngest of seven siblings. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, a Somali, worked as a teacher trainer.[8] Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein, was a Benadiri, and died when Omar was two years old.[9] She was thereafter raised by her father and grandfather.[10] Her grandfather, Abukar, was the director of Somalia's National Marine Transport, with her uncles and aunts also working as civil servants and educators.[8] After the start of Somali Civil War in 1991, she and her family fled the country and spent four years in a refugee camp in Kenya.[11]

Ilhan Omar and her sisters.jpg

However, investigators have cast doubt on this account. Research into records in USA and UK and her own and her families' Facebook and Instagram accounts suggests that Ilhan and her sister Sahra Noor are actually the daughters of Mohammed Nur Said Elmi, and are unrelated to the Omars. She sometimes uses the name Hameey. She publicly admits she and Sahra have a third sisters named Leyla or Leila Elmi, who is Elmi's daughter. It is possible to suspect that when they came to the USA from Kenya her family falsely claimed that they were relatives of the Omar family in order to get entry and obtain benefit payments. The girls also got free education.

Ilhan Omar with her father and sister.jpg

Ilhan in 2011 with Mohammed and Leila, from her own Instagram account

In 2009 Ilhan Omar entered into a marriage with Ahmed Nur Said Elmi who according to her own posts on social media appears to be her brother.

Ilhan Omar and Ahmed her brother-husband.jpg

Ahmed had obtained asylum in the UK, and by marrying Ilhan he got the right to live in the USA. Ahmed was divorced from Ilhan in 2017. Social media posts show him with his sisters, Sahra, Leyla and Ilhan in England. Statements later made by Omar's friends and family confirm that Leila Elmi is her sister and was with her in Washington DC in December 2016.[12]

Leila Elmi Nur Said.jpg

Marriage certificate of Leila Elmi stating her father is Mohammed Nur Said Elmi.

In 1995, Omar and her family's application to be resettled as refugees in the U.S. was approved, and they initially settled in Arlington, Virginia.[9][13] In 1995, they moved to Minneapolis, where she learned English. Her father worked initially as a taxi driver, later as a postal office worker.[9] Her father and grandfather emphasized during her upbringing the importance of democracy, and she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings at age 14, serving as his interpreter.[10][14] Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old.[15][9] She has claimed that she was bullied for wearing a hijab during her time in Virginia, using this as a way of getting sympathy and victimhood status .[9] Omar attended Edison High School, and volunteered there as a student organizer.[16] She graduated from North Dakota State University[14] with bachelor's degrees in political science and international studies in 2011.[17][18]

Omar was a Policy Fellow at the Humphrey School of Public Affairs.[18]

Early career

Omar began her professional career as a community nutrition educator at the University of Minnesota, working in that capacity from 2006 to 2009 in the Greater Minneapolis–Saint Paul area. In 2012, she served as campaign manager for Kari Dziedzic's reelection campaign for the Minnesota State Senate. Between 2012 and 2013, she was a child nutrition outreach coordinator at the Minnesota Department of Education.[18]

In 2013, Omar managed Andrew Johnson's campaign for Minneapolis City Council. After Johnson was elected, she served as his Senior Policy Aide from 2013 to 2015.[18] Campaign literature has claimed that she was subjected to violence at meetings, but no evidence of any kind has ever been shown to back up these claims. As of September 2015, Omar was the Director of Policy & Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network.[18] The association advocates for women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles.[19]

In September 2018, Jeff Cirillo of Roll Call called Omar a "progressive rising star."[20]

Minnesota House of Representatives


In 2016, Omar ran on the Democratic–Farmer–Labor (DFL) ticket for the Minnesota House of Representatives in District 60B, which includes part of northeast Minneapolis. On August 9, Omar defeated Mohamud Noor and incumbent Phyllis Kahn in the DFL primary.[21] Her chief opponent in the general election was Republican nominee Abdimalik Askar, also an activist in the Somali American community. In late August, Askar announced his withdrawal from the campaign.[22] In November 2016, Omar won the general election, becoming the first Somali American legislator in the United States.[1] Her term began on January 3, 2017.[23]

Tenure and activity

During her tenure as state Representative for District 60B, Omar was an Assistant Minority Leader for the DFL caucus.[24][25] She authored or co-authored at least 266 bills during the 2017-2018 legislative session.[26]

Committee assignments

  • Civil Law & Data Practices Policy
  • Higher Education & Career Readiness Policy & Finance
  • State Government Finance[27]

Financial transparency issues

In 2018, Republican state representative Steve Drazkowski publicly accused Omar of campaign finance violations, claiming that she used $2,250 in campaign funds to pay a divorce lawyer in 2017, and that her acceptance of speaking fees from public colleges violated Minnesota House rules. Omar responded that the attorney's fees were not personal but campaign-related; she offered to return the speaking fees.[28][29] Drazkowski later accused Omar of using state resources and staff for private business,[30] and purchasing plane tickets for personal travel with campaign money, including $3,000 in trips to Estonia and other locations.[31]

In response to an editorial in the Minneapolis Star Tribune arguing that Omar should be more transparent about her use of campaign funds, she suggested the criticisms were politically motivated, saying: "these people are part of systems that have historically been disturbingly motivated to silence, discredit and dehumanize influencers who threaten the establishment.”[32]

U.S. House of Representatives


On June 5, 2018, Omar filed to run for the U.S. House from Minnesota's 5th congressional district after six-term incumbent DFLer Keith Ellison announced he would not seek re-election.[33] (Ellison instead ran successfully for Attorney General of Minnesota.) On June 17, she was endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party after two rounds of voting.[34] Omar won the August 14 primary with 48.2% of the vote.[35] She faced health care worker and conservative activist Jennifer Zielinski in the November 6 general election.[36] She won with 78.0% of the vote, becoming the first Somali American elected to the U.S. Congress, the first woman of color to serve as a U.S. Representative from Minnesota,[3] and (alongside former Michigan state representative Rashida Tlaib) one of the first Muslim women elected to the U.S. Congress.[37][38][39] She had virtually assured herself of a seat in Congress with her victory in the DFL primary. With a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26, the 5th is the most Democratic district in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest. The DFL has held the seat without interruption since 1963, and the Republicans have not tallied more than 40 percent of the vote in almost half a century.

Omar received the largest percentage of the vote of any female candidate for U.S. House in state history,[40] as well as the largest percentage of the vote for a non-incumbent candidate for U.S. House (excluding those running against only non-major-party candidates) in state history.[40] She was sworn in on a copy of the Quran owned by her grandfather.[41][42]

After her election, a proposal was made to lift the ban on head covering in the U.S. House. The proposal was successful and Omar became the first woman to wear a hijab on the House floor.[9]

Congressional committee assignments

Committee assignments
116th Congress (2019–21)[43][44][45]
Party leadership and caucus memberships

  • Budget
  • Education and Labor
  • Foreign Affairs[46]


Political positions

Democratic socialism

According to a campaign staffer in 2018, Omar identifies as a democratic socialist.[48] However, unlike Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, who were also elected to Congress in 2018, Omar was neither a member of nor endorsed by the Democratic Socialists of America.[49][50]


She supports free tuition for college students whose family income is below $125,000 as well as greater accessibility to student loan forgiveness programs.[51]

Health care

Omar supports Medicare for All as proposed in the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.[9][52]


Omar has stated she is in favor of the abolition of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.[53] She supports prosecuting federal officials who have been accused of physical and sexual assault of people in their detention.[54][non-primary source needed] She supports the protection of sanctuary cities and a path to permanent status for DREAMers and their families.[53][non-primary source needed] She opposes efforts to militarize the border, calling Donald Trump's border wall plan "racist and sinful".[55]

Military spending

Omar has called to reduce funding for "perpetual war and military aggression".[56][clarification needed]

Saudi Arabia

Omar has criticized Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses and the Saudi Arabian–led intervention in Yemen.[57][58] In October 2018, she tweeted: "The Saudi government might have been strategic at covering up the daily atrocities carried out against minorities, women, activists and even the #YemenGenocide, but the murder of #JamalKhashoggi should be the last evil act they are allowed to commit."[58] She also called for a boycott of Saudi Arabia's regime, tweeting: "#BDSSaudi".[59] The Saudi Arabian government responded by having dozens of anonymous Twitter accounts it controlled post tweets critical of Omar.[57]

Israeli–Palestinian conflict

During her time in the Minnesota legislature, Omar was critical of the Israeli government and opposed a law intended to restrict the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.[60] She compared the movement to people who "engage[d] in boycotts" of apartheid in South Africa.[59] During her House campaign, she said she did not support the BDS movement, describing it as counterproductive to peace.[61][62] After the election, her position changed, as her campaign office told Muslim Girl that she supports the BDS movement despite "reservations on the effectiveness of the movement in accomplishing a lasting solution".[63][64][61] Omar has voiced support for a two-state solution to resolve the decades-old Israeli–Palestinian conflict.[59] She criticized Israel's settlement building in the occupied Palestinian territories in the West Bank.[65]

In 2018, Omar came under criticism for statements she made about Israel before she was in the Minnesota legislature, which the Jewish Telegraphic Agency reported had "earned her notoriety in the pro-Israel community."[62][60] In a 2012 tweet, she wrote, “Israel has hypnotized the world, may Allah awaken the people and help them see the evil doings of Israel."[60][66] The comment, particularly the notion that Israelis had "hypnotized the world," was criticized as drawing on anti-semitic tropes.[60] New York Times columnist Bari Weiss wrote that Omar's statement tied into a millennia-old "conspiracy theory of the Jew as the hypnotic conspirator".[67] When asked in an interview how she would respond to American Jews who found the remark offensive, Omar replied, "I don’t know how my comments would be offensive to Jewish Americans. My comments precisely are addressing what was happening during the Gaza War and I’m clearly speaking about the way the Israeli regime was conducting itself in that war."[66] Later, after reading Weiss's commentary, Omar apologized for not "disavowing the anti-Semitic trope I unknowingly used".[68]


Omar is notorious for expressing anti-semitic views. In February 2019, Democratic leaders criticized Omar for tweets that appeared to imply that money spent by the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) was the primary motivation for American politicians' support of Israel.[69] House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, Majority Leader Steny Hoyer, and Majority Whip Jim Clyburn criticized the tweets, with the Democratic House leadership releasing a statement that called Omar's tweets antisemitic and "deeply offensive."[70] The Jewish Democratic Council of America also denounced her statements.[71] Omar issued an apology the next day, stating, "I am grateful for Jewish allies and colleagues who are educating me on the painful history of anti-Semitic tropes", adding, "I reaffirm the problematic role of lobbyists in our politics, whether it be AIPAC, the NRA or the fossil fuel industry".[70]

LGBT rights

Omar was endorsed by the Human Rights Campaign, a major LGBT civil rights advocacy group. In response to the endorsement, Omar stated, "I will fight for LGBTQIA+ rights in Washington D.C."[72]

Minimum wage

Omar supports a $15 hourly minimum wage.[73][9]

Venezuela crisis

In January 2019, amid the 2019 Venezuelan presidential crisis, Omar joined Democrats Ro Khanna and Tulsi Gabbard in denouncing the Trump administration's decision to recognize Juan Guaidó, the leader of the Venezuelan National Assembly, as the new president of Venezuela.[74] She said that the U.S. should not "hand pick" foreign leaders,[75] adding that the U.S. should support "Mexico, Uruguay & the Vatican’s efforts to facilitate a peaceful dialogue", that Trump's action was a "U.S. backed coup", and that Guaidó was part of the "far-right opposition", a view not shared by most congressional Democrats; Guaidó's party has been described as holding center-left positions.[74][76]

In February 2019, Omar questioned whether Elliott Abrams, who was appointed by Donald Trump as Special Representative for Venezuela in January 2019, was the correct choice given his past support of right-wing authoritarian regimes in El Salvador and Guatemala, his initial doubts about the number of reported deaths in the El Mozote massacre in 1982, and his two 1991 misdemeanor convictions for withholding information from Congress about the Iran–Contra affair, for which he was later pardoned by George H. W. Bush.[77][78] Conservative critics argued that this focus was misplaced in light of the crisis in Venezuela. Abrams pointed to the fact that El Salvador is a democracy.[79][76]

Awards and honors

In 2014, Omar was named a rising star in the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party's Women's Hall of Fame.[18]

She received the 2015 Community Leadership Award from Mshale, an African immigrant media outlet based in Minneapolis. The prize is awarded annually on a readership basis.[80]

In 2017, Time magazine named Omar among its "Firsts: Women who are changing the world", a special report on 46 women who broke barriers in their respective disciplines, and featured her on the cover of its September 18 issue.[81] Her family was named one of the "five families who are changing the world as we know it" by Vogue in their February 2018 issue featuring photographs by Annie Leibovitz.[82]

In 2018, Omar was featured in the video for Maroon 5's "Girls Like You".[83]

The 2018 documentary film Time for Ilhan, directed by Norah Shapiro, chronicles Omar's political campaign.[84] It was selected to show at the Tribeca Film Festival and the Mill Valley Film Festival.

In January 2019, it was announced that Omar will write a memoir about her life.[85]

Personal life and accusations of bigamy

Omar is Muslim[19] and belongs to the Majeerteen clan from Northeastern Somalia.

In 2002, Omar became engaged to Ahmed Hirsi (né Aden). The couple applied for a marriage license, but the application was not finalized. The couple had two children together before separating in 2008.However 2009, Omar secretly married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a British citizen (see above). They never lived together as man and wife. The contract appears to have been a convenience so that he could obtain a US residence permit. In 2011, she and Elmi had a faith-based divorce,[86] and that year she resumed living with Hirsi. Omar and Hirsi had a third child in 2012.

At the time of her election in 2016, Omar passed as the wife of Hirsi, but was in fact still legally married to Ahmed - who is possibly her brother. In 2017, Ahmed and Omar were legally divorced,[29] and in 2018, Omar and Hirsi were legally married.[15] Omar, Hirsi, and their three children live in Minneapolis.[19] One year later, Omar announced that she is getting divorced from Hirsi. He accused her of having an affair with a "political consultant". [87]

See also


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External links

United States House of Representatives
Preceded by
Keith Ellison
Member of the U.S. House of Representatives
from Minnesota's 5th congressional district

United States order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded by
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
United States Representatives by seniority
Succeeded by
Lizzie Fletcher

Template:Members of the U.S. House of Representatives