On January 3, Ilhan Omar was sworn in as one of the new members of the 116th US Congress. Omar, who represents Minnota’s 15 Congressional district, is the first Somali-American to be elected to the US Congress. She was one of two Muslim women who joined the Congress in 2019 (the other was Rashida Tlaib, who represents Michigan’s 13th congressional district).
Omar has been married three times, to two different men. For the past few years, she has been at the center of a series of bizarre allegations of marriage fraud and perjury. She denies all these accusations. Omar has three children with Ahmed Hirsi, her current husband. Here’s what you need to know about her family:
1. Omar Says She First Married Ahmed Hirsi in 2002, When She Was 19
Omar says that she married Ahmed Hirsi back in 2002; she refers to him as “the love of my life.” She was 19 at the time. She and Hirsi applied for a marriage license but eventually decided not to have a legal ceremony; instead, they got married according to their “faith tradition,” according to a statement from Omar’s campaign last August.
The couple had two children together. Then, in 2008, they split up; the statement from Omar’s campaign said that they had “reached an impasse” in their life together. Their divorce was done according to the rules of their “faith tradition” and, like their marriage, it didn’t go through the US legal system.
The Minnesota Post reports that in Somali tradition, a bride’s family would normally vet the prospective groom and then agree on a bride price. The couple would then marry in a ceremony known as “nikah,” officiated by imams. The Minnesota Post reports that many young Somali couples don’t bother to get married according to US law.
2. Conservative Bloggers Say She Married Her Brother After Divorcing Hirsi
In 2016, a blogger named Scott Johnson began to write about Ilhan Omar and her personal life. PJ Media later picked up the story and investigated Omar’s marriages in further detail. Johnson’s 2016 story charged that in 2009, Omar may have married her own brother “for fraudulent purposes.” Johnson based his charge off of a claim he spotted in a Somali- American discussion board (that posting has since been deleted). However, Johnson’s stories about Omar don’t present any evidence that Omar’s second husband was her brother; the theory seems to be based entirely off of that deleted post on the Somali-American discussion board.
PJ Media repeated the claim that Omar had married her brother in 2009, adding that she had likely committed perjury when she decided to divorce him in 2017. But PJ Media also didn’t present any evidence at all to back up the claim; the site simply said that the allegation had been “public” for a few years and that Omar had never disproven it. Scott Johnson continued to argue that Omar had married her brother as recently as August 2018, and called the stories in the mainstream media defending Omar “pitifully weak.”
3. Omar Says Her Second Husband Was a British Citizen Named Ahmed Nur Said Elmi & Says He Is Not Her Brother
Omar has repeatedly denied that her second husband, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, is her brother; the congresswoman called the allegations “absurd and ridiculous.” She says Elmi is a British citizen and that they married in 2009 according to US law. According to Omar, they split up in 2011. That split was done according to their “faith tradition” and not through the US legal system. In 2017, she applied to legally divorce him, and in early 2018 the couple legally divorced.
The AP and the Star Tribune have both said they were unable to reach Elmi for comment. They said that Omar also declined to provide a list of her siblings, making it difficult to definitively prove, or disprove, the allegations against her. But neither AP not the Star Tribune found anything to support the allegation that Elmi is related by blood to Omar.
4. Omar & Her First Husband Reconciled in 2012 & Legally Married in 2018
The Star Tribune reports that divorce records show that Omar and her first husband reconciled in 2012. Omar and Hirsi had a third child together in that year. This was one year after Omar and her second husband, Elmi, had split up. Once Omar and Elmi’s divorce was finalized, Omar and Hirsi legally married.
5. Omar’s Daughter Has Been Documenting Her Mom’s Journey to Congress
Omar and Hirsi have three children together. Their 15 year old daughter, Isra Hirsi, has been documenting her mom’s journey to Congress and posting videos to her Twitter account. On January 4, she put up a video montage of Omar — and the whole family — in Washington DC for the swearing-in ceremony. She titled is, “The Road to Congress: the Finale.” Her proud mom retweeted the video, writing, It’s been an incredible journey and this video by my badass daughter captures the best parts of the last two days! Enjoy and try not to cry.” You can watch the video here:
After Alexandria Ocasio Cortez’s dancing video made waves on social media, Isra also put up her own video of herwhole family dancing and getting silly together at home. The video features Isra, her brother, and Ilhan all dancing around the house, laughing and having a good time. You can watch it here.