Nur Omar Mohamed, the father of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, died Monday from complications related to COVID-19. Credit: Photo courtesy of Ilhan Omar

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Nur Omar Mohamed, the father of Congresswoman Ilhan Omar, died Monday from complications related to COVID-19.

In a press release, Ilhan shared news of Nur’s death “with tremendous sadness and pain.”

“No words can describe what he meant to me and all who knew him,” she said. 

Ilhan began the statement with a verse from the Quran that states, “‎Surely we belong to God and to Him shall we return.”

Nur first came to the U.S. with his family in 1995 from a refugee camp in Kenya. At the time, Ilhan was 12 years old.

In Somalia, Nur trained teachers for a living, according to a 2016 City Pages story. Upon arriving in Minneapolis, Nur first drove cabs to support his family and later found work at the post office, according to the Washington Post

In early 2019, as Ilhan was preparing to swear into Congress for the first time, Nur wrote a guest post on her Instagram account referring to their first arrival in an airport in Washington D.C. as refugees two decades before then.

“I could never have dreamed that twenty three years later I would return to the same airport with my daughter Ilhan by my side, the day before she is to be sworn in as the first Somali-American elected to the United States Congress,” Nur wrote. “You, of course, can imagine how emotional this is and why I am incredibly proud of her.”

In her new memoir, This Is What America Looks Like: My Journey from Refugee to Congresswoman, which was released last month, Ilhan praised her father for supporting her and never “belittling” her “with protectionist admonishments.” She quoted Nur responding to criticism from some of her detractors within his community who “want me to put you in a box because you’re a girl.”

“But I ask,” Ilhan quotes her father saying, “how many people are calling the father of any male member of Congress to say, ‘Your son needs a talking-to?’”

“She is a full being,” Ilhan also quotes Nur saying. “She gets to have autonomy over her decisions and how she wants to live.” 

Lt. Gov. Peggy Flanagan, whose older brother died from complications related to COVID-19 in March, shared her condolences with Ilhan on Twitter Monday night

“The pain you’re feeling is familiar to me,” Flanagan wrote. “My heart breaks for you, sister. I’m praying for you and your family.”

This is a breaking story and we will update when more news is available.

Joey Peters

Joey Peters is a reporter for Sahan Journal. His work has appeared in Reuters, Public Radio International, Columbia Journalism Review, KFAI Radio, the Pioneer Press, City Pages, MinnPost and more. He previously...