U.S. Representative Ilhan Omar announced on Monday night that her father had died in Minneapolis, of complications from the coronavirus. Nur Omar Mohamed was 67.
“It is with tremendous sadness and pain to say goodbye to my father, Nur Omar Mohamed,” she wrote on Twitter. “No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew and loved him.”
Following the death of her mother when she was two years old, Omar fled Somalia’s civil war with her extended family at age eight, and spent four years in a Kenyan refugee camp. She and her dad — a school teacher in Somalia, who drove cabs and eventually worked for the postal service in the U.S. — moved to Arlington, Virginia, in 1995. From there, they went to Minneapolis in 1997.
In a 2018 interview with the New York Times, Omar recalled her father’s advice on dealing with bullies when she was a kid: “‘Listen,’” she remembered him saying, “‘these people who are doing all of these things to you, they’re not doing something to you because they dislike you. They are doing something to you because they feel threatened in some way by your existence.’” She has credited her father and grandfather for sparking her interest in politics. When she arrived in Washington, D.C., for her swearing-in ceremony in 2019 — the first-ever Somali-American to serve in Congress — Nur came with her.
“As we exited our planes, we realized that him and I had not returned [to] that same airport since the day we first landed here as refugees,” she told CNN at the time. “My dad … had high hopes for us about the opportunities we would have when we came to this country. But I don’t think he imagined that some day his baby would be going to Congress just 20 years after we arrived here.” He called the moment “amazing.”
At time of writing, Minnesota had 30,913 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and 1,344 people in the state had died from the virus. Across the country, more than 2.1 million people have tested positive, and nearly 117,000 people have died. Senator Elizabeth Warren and Representative Maxine Waters have also lost family members to the pandemic.
After she shared the news, condolences came pouring in from Omar’s colleagues.