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Ilhan Omar
Ilhan Omar, official portrait, 116th Congress (cropped) A.jpg
Omar in 2018
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
Ilham Abdullahi Omar

(1982-10-04) October 4, 1982 (age 40)
Mogadishu, Somalia
Political party Democratic
Ahmed Nur Said Elmi
(m. 2009; div. 2017)
Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi
(m. 2018; div. 2019)
Tim Mynett
(m. 2020)
Children 3, including Isra Hirsi
Relatives Sahra Noor (sister)
Education North Dakota State University (BA)

Ilhan Abdullahi Omar (born October 4, 1982) is an American politician serving as the U.S. representative for MN's 5th congressional district since 2019. She is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party. Before her election to Congress, Omar served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2017 to 2019, representing part of Minneapolis. Her congressional district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its first-ring suburbs.

Omar serves as whip of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and has advocated for a $15 minimum wage, universal healthcare, student loan debt forgiveness, the protection of Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, and abolishing U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). A frequent critic of Israel, Omar supports the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement and has denounced its settlement policy and military campaigns in the occupied Palestinian territories, as well as what she describes as the influence of pro-Israel lobbies.

Omar is the first Somali American and the first naturalized citizen of African birth in the United States Congress, and the first woman of color to represent Minnesota. She is also one of the first two Muslim women (along with Rashida Tlaib) to serve in Congress. She has been the target of several death threats, harassment by political opponents, and false and misleading claims by Donald Trump.

Early life and education

Omar was born in Mogadishu, Somalia, on October 4, 1982, and spent her early years in Baidoa, Somalia. She was the youngest of seven siblings, including sister Sahra Noor. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, an ethnic Somali from the Majeerteen clan of Northeastern Somalia, was a colonel in the Somali army under Siad Barre and also worked as a teacher trainer. Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein, a Benadiri, died when Ilhan was two. She was raised by her father and grandfather, who were moderate Sunni Muslims opposed to the rigid Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Her grandfather Abukar was the director of Somalia's National Marine Transport, and some of Omar's uncles and aunts also worked as civil servants and educators. She and her family fled Somalia to escape the Somali Civil War and spent four years in a Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County, Kenya, near the Somali border.

Omar's family secured asylum in the U.S. and arrived in New York in 1995, then lived for a time in Arlington, Virginia, before moving to and settling in Minneapolis, where her father worked first as a taxi driver and later for the post office. Her father and grandfather emphasized the importance of democracy during her upbringing, and at age 14 she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings, serving as his interpreter. She has spoken about school bullying she endured during her time in Virginia, stimulated by her distinctive Somali appearance and wearing of the hijab. She recalls gum being pressed into her hijab, being pushed down stairs, and physical taunts while she was changing for gym class. Omar remembers her father's reaction to these incidents: "They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence." Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old.

Omar attended Thomas Edison High School, from which she graduated in 2001, and volunteered as a student organizer. She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2011 with a bachelor's degree, majoring in political science and international studies. Omar was a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Humphrey School of Public Affairs.

Early career

Ilhan Omar, Brent Hardt, Mark Ritchie and Jim Core in Paris - 2017 (37746187644)
Omar with John Sullivan in Paris as part of Minnesota's World's Fair Bid Committee

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.

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. During a contentious precinct caucus that turned violent in February 2014, she was attacked by five people and was injured. According to MinnPost, the day before the caucus, Minneapolis city council member Abdi Warsame had told Johnson to warn Omar not to attend the meeting.

As of September 2015, Omar was the Director of Policy Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network, advocating for women from East Africa to take on civic and political leadership roles. In September 2018, Jeff Cirillo of Roll Call called her a "progressive rising star."

Minnesota House of Representatives


Ilhan Omar 02
Omar, then a candidate for the Minnesota House of Representatives, speaks at a Hillary for Minnesota event at the University of Minnesota in October 2016
Ilhan Omar for Congress - Twin Cities Pride Parade 2018, Minneapolis, Minnesota (28131759337)
Omar at the Twin Cities Pride Parade in 2018

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. Her chief opponent in the general election was Republican nominee Abdimalik Askar, another activist in the Somali-American community. In late August, Askar announced his withdrawal from the campaign. In November, Omar won the general election, becoming the first Somali-American legislator in the United States. Her term began on January 3, 2017.

Tenure and activity

During her tenure as state Representative for District 60B, Omar was an Assistant Minority Leader for the DFL caucus. She authored 38 bills during the 2017–2018 legislative session.

Committee assignments

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

U.S. House of Representatives



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Omar and other female members of the Congressional Black Caucus in January 2019

On June 5, 2018, Omar filed to run for the United States House of Representatives from Minnesota's 5th congressional district after six-term incumbent Keith Ellison announced he would not seek reelection. On June 17, she was endorsed by the Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party after two rounds of voting. Omar won the August 14 primary with 48.2% of the vote. The 5th district is the most Democratic district in Minnesota and the Upper Midwest, (it has a Cook Partisan Voting Index of D+26) and the DFL has held it without interruption since 1963. She faced health care worker and conservative activist Jennifer Zielinski in the November 6 general election and 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, and (alongside former Michigan state representative Rashida Tlaib) one of the first Muslim women elected to the Congress.

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


Ilhan Omar dances on stage at a Bernie Sanders rally in St Paul, Minnesota (49612442062)
Omar at a rally for Bernie Sanders' presidential campaign in 2020

Omar won the Democratic nomination in the August 11 Democratic primary, in which she faced four opponents. The strongest was mediation lawyer Antone Melton-Meaux, who raised $3.2 million in April–June 2020, compared to about $500,000 by Omar; much of Melton-Meaux's funding came from pro-Israel groups. Melton-Meaux was also endorsed by Minnesota's largest newspaper, The Star Tribune. This led some analysts to predict a close race, but Omar received 57.4% of the vote to Melton-Meaux's 39.2%. She defeated Republican Lacy Johnson and candidate Michael Moore in the November 3 general election, with 64.3% of the vote to Johnson's 25.8% and Moore's 9.5%. Omar's margin of victory was 24 points less than Biden's in the district, the highest underperformance of any Democrat in the nation, which Nathaniel Rakich of FiveThirtyEight attributed to increased Republican spending.


In the August 9 Democratic primary, Omar faced former Minneapolis councilman Don Samuels and three other opponents. The campaign primarily focused on crime and Omar's effectiveness in office. Omar's campaign outspent Samuels's $2.1 million to $800,000; Samuels ran television ads while Omar's campaign did not. Omar won the primary with 50.3% of the vote to Samuels's 48.2%, a margin of less than 2,500 votes.


Following Omar's election, the ban on head coverings in the U.S. House was modified, and Omar became the first woman to wear a hijab on the House floor. She is a member of the informal group known as "The Squad", whose members form a unified front to push for progressive changes such as the Green New Deal and Medicare for All. The other members of "The Squad" are Ayanna Pressley, Rashida Tlaib, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Brian Stelter of CNN Business found that from January to July 2019 Omar had around twice as many mentions on Fox News as on CNN and MSNBC, and about six times the coverage of James Clyburn, a Democratic leader in the House of Representatives. A CBS News and YouGov poll of almost 2,100 American adults conducted from July 17 to 19 found that Republican respondents were more aware of Omar than Democratic respondents. Omar has very unfavorable ratings among Republican respondents and favorable ratings among Democratic respondents. The same is true of the other three members of the Squad.


In July 2019, Omar introduced a resolution co-sponsored by Rashida Tlaib and Georgia Representative John Lewis stating that "all Americans have the right to participate in boycotts in pursuit of civil and human rights at home and abroad, as protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution". The resolution "opposes unconstitutional legislative efforts to limit the use of boycotts to further civil rights at home and abroad", and "urges Congress, States, and civil rights leaders from all communities to endeavor to preserve the freedom of advocacy for all by opposing anti-boycott resolutions and legislation". In the same month, Omar was one of 17 Congress members to vote against a House resolution condemning the BDS movement.

On January 7, 2021, Omar led a group of 13 House members introducing articles of impeachment against Trump on charges of high crimes and misdemeanors. The charges are related to Trump's alleged interference in the 2020 presidential election in Georgia and incitement of the attack at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. by his supporters, which occurred during the certification of electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election that affirmed Joe Biden's victory.

Committee assignments

  • Committee on Education and Labor
    • Subcommittee on Higher Education and Workforce Investment
    • Subcommittee on Workforce Protections
  • Committee on Foreign Affairs
    • Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights and International Organizations
    • Subcommittee on International Development, International Organizations and Global Corporate Social Impact

Former assignments

  • Committee on the Budget (2019–2021)


2021 U.S. Capitol attack

Speaking after the 2021 United States Capitol attack, Omar said the experience was very traumatizing and that the trauma would last a long time. She said she began to fear for her life when the evacuation began and as she was being escorted to a secure area she made a phone call to the father of her children to "make sure he would continue to tell my children that I loved them if I didn't make it out." She said, "The face of the Capitol will forever be changed. They didn't succeed in stopping the functions of democracy, but I do believe they succeeded in ending the openness of our democracy."

Political positions

Rep. Ilhan Omar - Press Conference Ahead of August Primary Election (50196131897)
Omar speaking during her 2020 re-election campaign


Omar supports broader access to student loan forgiveness programs, as well as free tuition for college students whose family income is below $125,000. Omar supports Bernie Sanders's plan to eliminate all $1.6 trillion in outstanding student debt, funded by an 0.5% tax on stock transactions and a 0.1% tax on bond transactions; she introduced a companion bill in the House of Representatives. In June 2019, Omar and Senator Tina Smith introduced the No Shame at School Act, which would end the marking of—and punishment for—students with school meal debt.

Health care

Omar supports Medicare for All as proposed in the Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act.

On July 19, 2022, after the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization, Omar and 17 other members of Congress were arrested in an act of civil disobedience for refusing to clear a street during a protest for reproductive rights outside the Supreme Court Building.

Human rights

Omar has criticized Saudi Arabia's human rights abuses and the Saudi Arabian-led intervention in Yemen.

Omar condemned China's treatment of its ethnic Uyghur people. In a Washington Post op-ed, Omar wrote, "Our criticisms of oppression and regional instability caused by Iran are not legitimate if we do not hold Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain to the same standards. And we cannot continue to turn a blind eye to repression in Saudi Arabia—a country that is consistently ranked among the worst of the worst human rights offenders." She also condemned the Assad regime in Syria. Omar criticized Trump's decision to impose further sanctions on Iran, saying the sanctions devastated the "country's middle class and increased hostility toward the United States, with tensions between the two countries rising to dangerous levels."

Omar condemned the 2019 Sri Lanka Easter bombings, tweeting, "No person, of any faith, should be fearful in their house of worship."

Omar opposed the October 2019 Turkish offensive into northeastern Syria, writing that "What has happened after Turkey's invasion of northeastern Syria is a disaster—tens of thousands of civilians have been forced to flee, hundreds of Islamic State fighters have escaped, and Turkish-backed rebels have been credibly accused of atrocities against the Kurds."

In October 2019, Omar voted "present" on H.Res. 296, to recognize the Armenian genocide, causing a backlash. She said in a statement that "accountability and recognition of genocide should not be used as cudgel in a political fight" and argued that such a step should include both the Atlantic slave trade and the Native American genocide. In November, after her controversial vote, Omar publicly condemned the Armenian genocide at a rally for presidential candidate Bernie Sanders.


In a March 2019 Politico interview Omar criticized Barack Obama's "caging of kids" along the Mexican border. Omar accused Politico of distorting her comments and said that she had been "saying how [President] Trump is different from Obama, and why we should focus on policy not politics," adding, "One is human, the other is really not."

In June 2019, Omar was one of four Democratic representatives to vote against the Emergency Supplemental Appropriations for Humanitarian Assistance and Security at the Southern Border Act, a $4.5 billion border funding bill that required Customs and Border Protection to enact health standards for individuals in custody such as standards for "medical emergencies; nutrition, hygiene, and facilities; and personnel training." "Throwing more money at the very organizations committing human rights abuses—and the very Administration directing these human rights abuses—is not a solution. This is a humanitarian crisis ... inflicted by our own leadership," she said.

Infrastructure spending

On November 5, 2021, Omar was one of six House Democrats to break with their party and vote against the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act because it was decoupled from the social safety net provisions in the Build Back Better Act.

LGBT rights

In March 2019, Omar addressed a rally in support of a Minnesota bill that would ban gay conversion therapy in the state. She co-sponsored a similar bill when she was a member of the Minnesota House. In August 2019, Omar wrote on Twitter in support of the Palestinian LGBT rights group Al Qaws after the Palestinian Authority banned Al Qaws's activities in the West Bank.

Military policy

Omar has been critical of U.S. foreign policy, and has called for reduced funding for "perpetual war and military aggression."

Minimum wage

Ilhan Omar speaking at worker protest against Amazon (45406484475)
Omar speaking at a worker protest against Amazon, December 2018

Omar supports a $15 hourly minimum wage.

Awards and honors

Omar 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.

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. 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.

Personal life

In 2002, Omar became engaged to Ahmed Abdisalan Hirsi (né Aden). She has said that they had an unofficial faith-based Islamic marriage. The couple had two children together. Omar has said that they divorced within their faith tradition in 2008.

In 2009, Omar married Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, a British Somali. According to Omar, in 2011 she and Elmi had a faith-based divorce and she reconciled with Hirsi, with whom she had a third child in 2012. In 2017, Elmi and Omar legally divorced, and Omar and Hirsi legally married in 2018. On October 7, 2019, Omar filed for divorce from Hirsi, citing an "irretrievable breakdown" of the marriage. The divorce was finalized on November 5, 2019.

In March 2020, Omar married Tim Mynett, a political consultant whose political consulting firm, the E Street Group, received $2.78 million in contracts from Omar's campaign during the 2020 cycle. The campaign's contract with Mynett's firm became a focus of criticism by her Democratic primary opponent and conservative critics that received significant local and national media attention. On November 17, 2020, Omar's campaign terminated its contract with Mynett's firm, saying the termination was to "make sure that anybody who is supporting our campaign with their time or financial support feels there is no perceived issue with that support."

Omar's daughter Isra Hirsi is one of the three principal organizers of the school strike for climate in the US.

On June 15, 2020, Omar's father died of complications from COVID-19.

See also

Women's History Month on Kiddle
Women Scientists of Antiquity
Mary the Jewess
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