Somali-American primary winner clarifies marital status

Published 10:26 am Thursday, August 18, 2016

MINNEAPOLIS — A woman on the brink of becoming the nation’s first Somali-American state legislator has clarified questions about her marital status that arose following her victory in a primary election last week.

Ilhan Omar, a 33-year-old community activist, defeated a 44-year incumbent — evidence of the Somali community’s growing influence in Minneapolis and Minnesota. Omar’s victory in a heavily Democratic district makes her a likely winner in the general election.

After initially rebuffing a response to conservative bloggers who questioned her marital history, Omar issued a statement Wednesday.

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“I will offer clarity and share a difficult part of my personal history that I did not consider relevant in the context of a political campaign, so that we can put these rumors to rest and return to what really matters — how we join together to build a more prosperous and equitable district and state,” Omar said in the statement.

Omar said she was never legally married to Ahmed Hirsi, the father of their three children and a man she listed as her husband in campaign literature. She said they had an Islamic marriage that ended in 2008 when they reached “an impasse.”

She then met and married British citizen Ahmed Nur Said Elmi in 2009.

“Our relationship ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition. After that, he moved home to England. I have yet to legally divorce Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, but am in the process of doing so,” Omar said.

Omar and Hirsi reconciled in 2011.

“Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together,” she said in her statement.