An attorney for her cited years of "speculation and innuendo from political opponents and the media" which had "taken a significant toll"

By Adam Carlson
October 07, 2019 12:26 PM
From left: Rep. Ilhan Omar and her husband, Ahmed Hirsi
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Freshman Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar, who burst into the national spotlight last fall as part of a wave of trailblazing lawmakers in Congress, is divorcing her husband, Ahmed Hirsi, PEOPLE confirms.

The divorce petition, which was first reported by TMZ, was filed on Friday (also Omar’s birthday), court records show.

Omar, 37, cited “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship,” according to TMZ, and is seeking joint custody of her three children with Hirsi, 39.

“As with all marriages, this is intensely personal and a difficult time for their family,” her attorney, Jaime Driggs, said in a statement to TMZ and other media outlets, adding, “Just like any other family navigating this kind of transition, Ilhan wishes to have their privacy respected for themselves and their children and will not be commenting any further.”

Driggs also cited what he called years of “speculation and innuendo from political opponents and the media” which had “taken a significant toll on Ilhan, Ahmed, and their three children.”

He was apparently referring, in part, to headlines this year based on court documents from a political consultant’s estranged wife who alleged as part of their own divorce that Omar had an affair with the consultant.

The consultant reportedly denied this, charging the accusation was part of a smear campaign.

Separately, in 2016, Omar shot down the claim spread in some right-wing circles — which she called “absurd and offensive” — that her previous husband, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, was actually her brother and the two had really wed to advance his own immigration case.

Reached on Monday, a congressional spokeswoman for Omar declined to comment on the pending divorce; her attorney did not immediately return a call. Hirsi could not be reached.

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From left: Ahmed Hirsi and Rep. Ilhan Omar in 2016
STEPHEN MATUREN/AFP/Getty
Rep. Ilhan Omar (second from left) with Ahmed Hirsi (second from right) in April 2018
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty
From left: Ahmed Hirsi and Rep. Ilhan Omar in November
KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty

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A former state lawmaker, Omar arrived in the U.S. as a young Somali refugee and later became a citizen. She was first elected to Minnesota’s House of Representatives in 2016 and joined the U.S. House last fall as Democrats overwhelmingly won the midterm elections.

She is one of the first Muslims elected to Congress and an outspoken progressive critic of President Donald Trump, who notoriously told her to “go back” to where she came from earlier this year.

With Trump leading the vitriol against her, Omar became a favorite target of some conservatives because of her ethnicity, religion and political beliefs, including her support of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions Movement to pressure Israel because of its stance toward Palestinians.

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In response to Trump’s “go back” attack, she tweeted, “I am where I belong, at the people’s house and you’re just gonna have to deal!”

In a New York Times profile last year, Omar described how she cried after she ran into Georgia Rep. John Lewis, an icon of the civil rights movement, during her orientation in Congress.

She remembered: “I said to him, ‘Sir, I read about you in middle school, and you’re here in the flesh, and I get to be your colleague.’ … There are moments — every single minute — that I’ve been here where I almost want to pinch myself.”

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