Who is Ilhan Omar? US Congresswoman faces deportation call over Somalia speech - Hindustan Times
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Who is Ilhan Omar? US Congresswoman faces backlash, deportation call following Somalia speech

ByShweta Kukreti
Jan 31, 2024 06:02 PM IST

In her recent speech, Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar said that she is strongly supporting Somalia in its territorial dispute with Somaliland.

Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar drew criticism online after her controversial remarks in support of Somalia went viral on social media. In her speech, the American politician said that she is strongly supporting Somalia in its territorial dispute with Somaliland.

US Representative Ilhan Omar (REUTERS)
US Representative Ilhan Omar (REUTERS)

A video of the Minnesota legislator went viral with almost 2.6 million views after it was uploaded on X, with a translation stating that Omar, who hails from Somali origins, said: "As Somalis, one day we will go after our missing territories."

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While addressing a crowd in a Minneapolis hotel on January 27, Omar discussed a January 1 memorandum negotiated between Somaliland and Ethiopia that allows landlocked nation Ethiopia to access the sea through the breakaway region's territory.

Also Read: ‘Deceptive fraud’: Netizens call out Ilhan Omar for fake post attributing death of children to Israel

What exactly did Ilhan Omar say?

According to the translation of the video, Omar praised President Hassan Sheikh Mohamud and asserted "Somalia is for Somalis only." She even stated that she will utilise her position in Congress to protect Somalia's interests.

“The U.S. government will only do what Somalians in the US tell them to do! They will do what we want and nothing else. They must follow our orders and that is how we will safeguard the interest of Somalia. We Somalians must have confidence in ourselves that we call for the shots in the US. We live in the US, pay taxes in the US, and have a real voice," the Democratic lawmaker stated.

"Sleep in comfort knowing I am here to protect the interests of Somalia from inside the US system," she added.

Somalia and Ethiopia are at odds over the territory known as Somaliland, which Somalia claims as part of its territory. Somaliland, officially known as the Republic of Somaliland, claims independence but is not recognised internationally. Somalia has called a recent deal between Ethiopia and Somaliland to establish a naval base "an act of invasion".

Also Read: US: Ilhan Omar introduces House resolution over India’s human rights record

Ilhan Omar faces deportation call, receives flak from Somaliland

After the clip went viral on social media, Omar received a fiery response from the critics who accused her of showing her loyalty towards her birth country rather than the United States.

Omar's remarks quickly garnered condemnation from Somaliland Ambassador Rhoda Elmi, who termed her speech as "regrettably unbecoming" and "lacking in common decency."

“Furthermore, her use of ethno-racist rhetoric didn't escape attention and left many, with a deep sense of disappointment,” Elmi said in a press release on X (formerly Twitter).

"We hope the house leadership and her caucus will take note of her public conduct, unbecoming a United States Congresswoman nor representative of the august house she serves in," she added.

Meanwhile, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., called Omar a "terrorist sympathiser", who was emboldened by "Democrats’ disdain for our country".

Expressing deep concern over Omar's statement, Defence Attorney Marina Medvin wrote on X: “Ilhan Omar, an American congresswoman, tells Somalians that she is Somalian first, Muslim second, and... [no, American wasn’t even mentioned].”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis called for Omar to be ejected from Congress, have her citizenship revoked, and deported from the US over her speech.

Who is Ilhan Omar and what's her response to criticism?

Despite the backlash Omar received online, some netizens defended her speech. An X user stated that she was fulfilling her duty by promoting the interests of Somalis in the United States. In response, Omar slammed the translation of her remarks, claiming that "propagandists" misinterpreted her speech.

“No nation state can survive if its states start to get involved in land lease negotiations with other countries without the consent of the federal government. Somalis in Somalia and in the diaspora are united in that effort and I stand in solidarity with them. No amount of harassment and lies will change that.” Omar tweeted.

"[B]ut I wouldn’t expect more from these propagandists. I pray for them and for their sanity," she said.

Omar fled her home country with her family shortly after the outbreak of the Somali Civil War in 1991, spending four years in a Kenyan refugee camp before emigrating to the United States in 1995. She is the first Somali-American to serve in Congress, as well as the first woman of color to represent Minnesota from 2017 to 2019.

This is not the first time that Omar was criticised for her stance. In February 2023, the Republican-controlled House voted to remove Omar from her position on the Foreign Affairs Committee, citing previous remarks she had made about Israel and accusing her of antisemitism.

She is also known for her anti-India stance and was brutally lambasted for her visit to Pakistan-occupied Kashmir in 2022.

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