Ilhan Omar: Somali woman who made history in US elections

Home » Ilhan Omar: Somali woman who made history in US elections

Her name is Ilhan Omar, the woman who has made history by becoming the first Somali legislator in the United States.

A former refugee, the 34-year-old Somali-born activist has been elected to serve as a representative in the US state of Minnesota.

This makes the Muslim Somali-American woman the highest-ranking Somali elected to office in the United States.

Her win was confirmed just days after US President-elect Donald Trump accused Somali immigrants in Minnesota of “spreading their extremist views”.

The State of Minnesota has the nation’s largest Somali community – numbering 50,000 according to the US census.

While celebrating her surprise victory, Omar said she would be the “voice for the marginalised” in the state parliament.

“I think I bring the voice of young people. I think I bring the voice of women in the East African community. I bring the voice of Muslims. I bring the voice of young mothers looking for opportunities,” an excited Omar said as quoted by Minnesota Public Radio.

Omar escaped from Somalia with her family just as the civil war begun when she was just a child. She was eight years old.

They reportedly lived in a Kenyan refugee camp for four years, before moving to the US and settling in a Somali-American neighbourhood in Minnesota.

Standing for the DFL coalition, which is affiliated to the Democratic Party, the young politician won a seat to represent District 60B in the state legislature.

Omar can partly thank fate for her win as she faced minimal opposition after her Republican opponent dropped out of the race citing family reasons.

During a primary in August she unseated one of the longest-serving members of the Minnesota legislature.

Minneapolis’s Star Tribune newspaper described her as a “Muslim-American woman who proudly wears the hijab”, saying she had been “suddenly thrust into leadership of a rapidly emerging DFL coalition that is younger, more urban and more racially and ethnically diverse than at any time in its history”.

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