Ilhan Omar, the first American of Somali origin elected in Minnesota

Our columnist traces the journey of the former refugee, on the verge of winning, at 33, a Democratic seat in the state of the Midwest. The American Ilhan Omar is of Somali origin, a refugee in the United States at the age of 12. A Democrat, she won her party’s primary to compete in the November 8 local elections in Minnesota. LORIE SHAULL / CC BY 2.0
Temps blessed for xenophobic populists. Shamelessly, they erect their lies into irrefutable facts. They often hit the mark. One trumpets everywhere that he wants to restore his country to its former grandeur, the other claims to spare the inhabitants of Béziers, of which he is the councilor, the invasion of foreigners. A thousand leagues from these hucksters, it is pleasant to see unexpected personalities appear here and there who give new meaning to politics, by setting up other forms of relational economy.

I first saw her on a TV screen in March 2016. She was playing big that night and she wasn’t ignoring her. Towards the end of the night, the result falls: the Democratic primary in Minnesota is won by Bernie Sanders against Hillary Clinton. She is jubilant because the results in her sector are very good for the candidate of her heart. She ? Ilhan Omar. A little bit of a woman with a frail body and a face illuminated by a broad smile. His name doesn’t ring a bell yet, but tomorrow is a whole different matter.

Arrived at 12 in the United States

At 33, Ilhan Omar is the new darling of the Democratic Party of this Midwestern state. On August 9, she won hands down, in turn, the primary at the local level. Better still, it has a very beautiful story. And, in the United States, everyone loves uplifting stories written in the first person singular.

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Born in 1982 in Somalia, Ilhan Omar was just 8 years old when civil war threw a large part of the population onto the roads. Like other families, that of the future activist finds herself in a refugee camp in Kenya, where she resides four years before being admitted to emigrate to the United States. At the age of 12, it was in Arlington, Virginia, that she took her first steps in the East African community, survivors of the conflicts that continue to destabilize the Horn of Africa. Two years more, the Omar family left Virginia to join Minneapolis and Saint Paul, the twin cities of Minnesota which are home to the largest Somali community on the American continent.

Riding cut for her

Not all migrants manage to acclimatize to the new environment. Like the chrysalis that dies to give birth to the butterfly, Ilhan Omar embraces her new identity: “For the first time, I realized that I was black and Muslim, and that my skin color and my hijab set me apart from the crowd. rest of the population, and made my identification as a Somali refugee obvious to everyone ”,she confides to journalists. By helping her grandfather who wants to accomplish his civic duty, the high school student discovers a passion for “public affairs“. She became a grassroots activist for the Democratic Party, putting up posters, going door to door, inviting those around her to register on the electoral rolls and exercise their constitutional rights. Raised by her father and grandfather, who passed on their thirst for justice and freedom to her, the young stateless girl completed an exemplary school career crowned by a degree in political science. But it is in the social field that it distinguishes itself, working for the most humble. She never forgot where she came from: “When we landed in the United States, I didn’t speak English. ”

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Married and mother of three children, she is a candidate with steel morale who roams the bars of buildings and social centers to fill up with voices. All that remains is to transform the essay. Observers recognize that the future is bright for the former little Somali refugee who became the local Democrats’ candidate in a circumspection that seems cut out for her. Its demographic composition is very favorable to it, bringing together Americans of East African origin and progressive residents linked to nearby universities. At a time when the candidate for the presidency of the United States Donald Trump adorns himself daily with a xenophobic and Islamophobic mantle, the voters of district 60B are in the process of inflicting a scathing uppercut on him. The Republican candidate, also of Somali origin, has just thrown in the towel for personal reasons. On the evening of November 8, Ilhan Omar should therefore become the first black woman of Somali origin, Muslim, elected from Minnesota. It would be astonishing if she stopped in such a good way.