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In first, two Middle Eastern women win seats in US Congress

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Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar became the first Middle Eastern women to be elected to Congress during the US mid-terms yesterday.

The two women made history as incoming election results showed that the pair had been chosen to represent Michigan’s 13th district and Minnesota’s 5th district respectively. They also become the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress.

Democratic candidate Rashida Tlaib is a Palestinian-American whose parents hail from Beit Ur Al-Fauqa, west of Ramallah in the occupied West Bank and Beit Hanina, north of Jerusalem. Her family moved to Detroit, where Tlaib was born and raised. Tlaib was famously escorted from a 2016 rally for then Presidential-candidate Donald Trump for shouting questions asking him if he had ever read the US Constitution, according to the Guardian.

Ilhan Omar – a member of the Democrat-affiliated “Minnesota Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party” (DFL) – also joined Tlaib as the first female Middle Eastern Congress member. Omar was born in Somali capital Mogadishu, where she lived until the early 1990s when her family was forced to flee the country’s civil war. She spent four years living in a refugee camp in Kenya until her family moved to the USA. Speaking shortly after the results came through, Omar told a packed hall:

I stand before you tonight as your Congresswoman elect with many firsts behind my name – the first woman of colour to represent our state in Congress, the first woman to wear a hijab to represent our state, the first refugee ever elected to Congress and one of the first Muslim women to be elected to Congress.

Both women ran unopposed in their districts after winning this summer’s Democratic primaries and the Republican Party failed to put forward candidates. They were also vocal in their support for each another, with Tlaib writing to Omar on Twitter in August that: “I can’t wait to walk onto the floor of United States Congress hand in hand with you. So incredibly proud of you.”

Although at the time of writing the mid-term results are still coming in, it looks likely that the Democratic Party will declare victory in the House of Representatives (the lower chamber of the US Congress), with 219 seats versus the Republican Party’s 193 seats – representing 50.3 per cent and 44.4 per cent of the House respectively.

Meanwhile in the Senate – the upper chamber of Congress – it looks likely the Republican Party will hold a majority with 51 seats against the Democrats’ 43. Four Senate seats have yet to be declared.

If the result stands it will be decidedly more difficult for President Trump to pass legislation in the remaining two years of his term, meaning he will likely need to use his executive powers to push bills forward.
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