10 things you should know about Ilhan Omar, who is winning hearts in the US
- 03 September 2018
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If Ilhan Omar tried to emigrate to the US today, she would have found it impossible; Donald Trump’s travel ban would have nixed this Somalian woman’s dreams of a safe life and career in the US.
Ilhan came to the US from a refugee camp in 1995, and two years ago she became the first Somali-American to be elected to a state legislature. She is now running for a seat in Congress and has made it very clear that one of her top priorities will be resisting the Trump Administration.
1. Ilhan Omar is a Minnesota state legislator. She was born in the Somalian capital of Mogadishu and came to the US at the age of 12 in 1995, escaping Somalia’s brutal civil war. She was the youngest of seven siblings, and her mother died when she was young.
2. Ilhan graduated from North Dakota State University in 2011 with a bachelor’s degree in political science and international studies.
3. After winning her Democratic primary in a Minnesota District in August 2018, Ilhan is likely to become the first Somali-American and one of the first two Muslim women, along with Michigan’s Rashida Tlaib, to make it to Congress.
4. If Ilhan wins in November, she will fill Minnesota Congressman Keith Ellison’s seat. In 2006, fellow Democrat Ellison became the first Muslim ever to have been elected to Congress. He is retiring to run for attorney general in the state.
5. Hijab-wearing Ilhan is the Director of Policy and Initiatives of the Women Organizing Women Network. She is the Democratic Farmer Labor nominee for US Representative in Minnesota’s 5th congressional district, having won the primary this year.
6. Ilhan has strongly opposed US President Donald Trump’s ban on travellers from several Muslim-majority countries. Soon after the US Supreme Court’s decision to uphold the ban, Ilhan made a statement expressing her stance: “When I’m in Congress, I will introduce legislation to overturn this decision. It’s clear we are at one of the most significant turning points in American history; we must decide whether we stand for liberty or if we stand for oppression. We must take decided action beyond helping ourselves, going out of our way to help our neighbors. We must fight back, we must organize, we must vote.”
7. Other policies Ilhan champions include a $15 minimum wage, abolishing the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, as well as medicare for all.
8. She has also been bidding for cancellation of student debt, banning of private prisons and strong funding cuts to military spending, which she has described as “perpetual war and military aggression”.
9. In 2014, Ilhan was named a rising star in the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party’s Women’s Hall of Fame in 2014. Last year, Time magazine listed her among its “Firsts: Women who are changing the world”, and her family was named one of the “five families who are changing the world as we know it” by Vogue in 2018.
10. Her campaign line says, “I’m a legislator, a refugee and a working mom. But above all, I’m an organizer. And I’m ready to organize for the America we deserve. I’m asking you to join me.”
(Writing by Seban Scaria)
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