Rep. Ilhan Omar is serving as U.S. Representative for Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District, which includes Minneapolis and surrounding suburbs and assumed office on January 3, 2019.

Family, Childhood, and Education

Born October 4, 1982, in Mogadishu, Somalia, Ilhan Abdullahi Omar is the youngest among 7 children. Her mother, Fadhuma Hussein, died when Omar was two years old. Her father, Nur Omar Mohamed from Somalia raised her and her 6 siblings together with her grandfather.

Omar was eight years old when war broke out in Somalia. When gunmen attacked the family compound, her father decided to flee Mogadishu. Omar recalled walking through streets with debris and corpses and the family ended up in a Kenyan refugee camp. Living in the camp for four years, this is where she understood hunger and death.

In 1992, after years of going through a stringent vetting process, the family arrived in the United States as an asylum seeker. They were finally given asylum in 1995, moved first to Arlington, Virginia before permanently settling in the Cedar-Riverside neighborhood of Minneapolis in 1997. Omar became a US Citizen in 2000.

While in Virginia, Omar recalled experiencing many challenges of being an immigrant and a refugee. She wasn’t spared of school bullying primarily because of her Somalian identity and her wearing the hijab, a head covering traditionally worn by Muslim women. Ironically, Omar became the first member of the U.S. Congress to wear a hijab – overturning the 181-year-old rule disallowing any form of headwear inside the House.

Omar attended Thomas Edison High School in Minneapolis, Minnesota and volunteered as a student organizer. She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2011 with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science and International Studies.