Former Somali refugee elected to Congress in US midterms


Former refugee Ilhan Omar became the first Somali American to be elected to Congress in this week’s UK midterm elections.

During a historic week for political diversity in the US, Omar also became the first refugee to be elected in Congress while her and Rashida Tlaib together became the first Muslim congresswomen as Democrats regained control of the House.

Somali refugee elected to Congress

Ilhan Omar was born in the Somali capital of Mogadishu in 1981 but fled the country with her family in 1991 after the start of the civil war. She spent four years as a refugee in neighbouring Kenya before emigrating to the US with her family in 1995. In 2000, Omar became a US citizen at the age of 17 and went on to graduate from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011.

Omar has spent her relatively short political career championing left-leaning policies, including medical care for all, a US$15 minimum wage and abolishing US Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In this week’s congressional district election for Minnesota, Omar beat Republican Jennifer Zielinski with an estimated 78.2% of the vote, meaning she will replace Keith Ellison in Congress in January.

Featured image: “Ilhan Omar” flickr photo by Lorie Shaull shared under a Creative Commons (BY-SA) license

About Aaron Brooks

Aaron Brooks is a UK journalist who wants to cut out the international agendas in news. Spending his early years in both England and Northern Ireland he saw the difference between reality and media coverage at an early age. After graduating from the University of Chester with a BA in journalism, his travels revealed just how large the gap between news and the real world can be. As Editor-in-Chief at East Africa Monitor, it’s his job to provide a balanced view of what’s going on in the region for English-speaking audiences.