US: First Somali-American Voted In


Thu, November 10, 201


Making U.S. election history, a Somali-American was elected to public office as a Democratic state legislator in Minnesota. Ilhan Omar, 34, will represent district 60B, home to the largest Somali population outside of Africa.Ilhan Omar thanks her supporters (Photo: video screenshot)

After escaping the brutal civil war in Somalia, Omar and her family lived in a refugee camp in Kenya before immigrating to the United States some 20 years ago. The mother of three and a community activist, Omar is currently the director of policy initiatives at Women Organizing Women.

Three candidates had vied for the seat during the primary.  Running against Omar were the incumbent, Phyllis Kahn – who had held the office since 1972 and was tied for being the longest-serving legislator in Minnesota – and Mohamud Noor, a computer scientist and activist who is also Somali-American.

“From a refugee camp to the State Capitol with intelligence and insight,” said the former mayor of Minneapolis R.T. Rybak after the primary. “This is a wonderful story to tell as Americans, and a great source of pride for the state of Minnesota’s open arms.”

Just two years ago, Omar was attacked at a party caucus. Seven or eight people held her down and brutally beat her, resulting in a concussion. A supporter of the incumbent had warned her not to attend the caucus, but Omar had brushed off the threats thinking they were just verbal intimidation.

The incident left Omar even more determined to enter politics.  “For me, if I can have a conversation with people who have had hundreds of years of a history of being oppressed and it still tells them that they need to vote and that there’s hope and that they can make change, it would be sort of hypocritical of me to say this thing happened to me and I’m no longer interested,” Omar said later.

After arriving in the country at age 14, she learned English in three months and acted as a translator for her grandfather at the caucuses, who she credits with teaching her about the importance of representative democracy. She studied political science in college and afterwards began helping local minority groups.

She describes herself as being part of a “shift in young people like myself who are immigrants and are excited about getting involved in the system, while a lot of our elders are focused on being a good citizen and voting only.”

2 replies

  1. may ALLAH ( s.w ) help you on this leadership and help you to do justice in every where.

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