Ilhan Abdullahi Omar who was born on October 4, 1981 is a Somali-American politician serving as the U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th congressional district since 2019. The district includes all of Minneapolis and some of its suburbs.
Omar was elected to the Minnesota House of Representatives in 2016 on the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party line. She was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 2018, marking a number of historic electoral firsts: the first Somali-American, the first naturalized citizen from Africa, the first non-white woman from Minnesota, and one of the first two Muslim women, along with Rashida Tlaib of Michigan, to serve in Congress.
Born on October 4, 1981, in Mogadishu, Omar spent her early years in Baidoa, Somalia. She was the youngest of seven siblings, including Sahra Noor. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed, an ethnic Somali, worked as a teacher trainer. Her mother, Fadhuma Abukar Haji Hussein, a Benadiri (a community of partial Yemeni descent), died when Omar was two years old. She was thereafter raised by her father and grandfather. Her grandfather, Abukar, was the director of Somalia’s National Marine Transport, with her uncles and aunts also working as civil servants and educators. Escaping war in Somalia, she and her family fled the country and spent four years in a Dadaab refugee camp in Garissa County, Kenya near the Somali border.
Omar entered the United States in 1992. After first arriving in New York, her family settled in Arlington, Virginia. Her family sought asylum in the U.S. in 1995 and moved to Minneapolis. Omar’s father worked initially as a taxi driver, later as a postal office worker. He and Omar’s grandfather emphasized during her upbringing the importance of democracy, and she accompanied her grandfather to caucus meetings at age 14, serving as his interpreter. Omar became a U.S. citizen in 2000 when she was 17 years old.
Omar attended Edison High School and volunteered there as a student organizer. She graduated from North Dakota State University with bachelor’s degrees in political science and international studies in 2011. Omar was a Policy Fellow at the University of Minnesota’s Humphrey School of Public Affairs.