The 'Ups and Downs' of Rep. Ilhan Omar’s Marriage to Ahmed Hirsi Before She Filed for Divorce

Maria Pasquini

Freshman Minnesota Rep. Ilhan Omar‘s romance with, and eventual marriage to, Ahmed Hirsi spanned years before she filed for divorce last week.

Omar, who entered the national spotlight last fall when she became one of the first Muslims elected to Congress, made the split official on Friday, her 37th birthday.

In her divorce petition, Omar cited “irretrievable breakdown of the marriage relationship,” according to TMZ, which first reported on the news. She 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,” Omar’s attorney said in a statement to TMZ and other outlets. “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.”

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Her lawyer 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.”

Omar became a favorite target of President Donald Trump and some other conservatives because of her ethnicity, religion and progressive politics, including her views on Israel and the Palestinians.

While she was first running for office, some right-wing circles spread claims about her relationships, which she said were “absurd.”

Here’s what you need to know about her marriage to Hirsi.

From left: Rep. Ilhan Omar and Ahmed Hirsi | Facebook

They First Applied for a Marriage License When She Was 19

In a statement released in 2016, before Omar was elected to Minnesota’s House of Representatives, she opened up about her personal life — which was already the subject of what she called painful rumors.

“In 2002, when I was 19 years old, Ahmed Hirsi (whose name before he received citizenship was Ahmed Aden), the father of my children and love of my life, and I, applied for a marriage license,” she wrote then. “But we never finalized the application and thus were never legally married.”

The pair remained in a relationship for the next six years, during which time they had two children together, before splitting for the first time, according to The Hill.

“In 2008, we decided to end our relationship in our faith tradition after reaching an impasse in our life together,” Omar said in 2016.

Legal Marriage to Another Man — and Reconciliation with Hirsi

During her time apart from Hirsi, Omar began a relationship with another man, Ahmed Nur Said Elmi, whom she would go on to legally marry in 2009.

In her 2016 statement, Omar said that their relationship “ended in 2011 and we divorced in our faith tradition,” after which he “moved home to England.”

Tthe pair would not go on to get legally divorced for years — during which time Omar reconciled with Hirsi and the pair welcomed their third child.

Ilhan Omar and Ahmed Hirsi (center, from left) and their family | Astrid Stawiarz/Getty

“Since 2011, I am happy to say that I have reconciled with Ahmed Hirsi, we have married in our faith tradition and are raising our family together,” Omar said in 2016. “Like all families, we have had our ups and downs but we are proud to have come through it together.”

Oman filed for divorce from Elmi in 2017 and legally wed Hirsi in 2018, according to The Hill.

The wedding took place shortly before Omar joined the U.S. House following last year’s midterm elections, becoming the first Somali-American, and one of the first Muslims, to be elected to Congress.

From left: Ahmed Hirsi and Rep. Ilhan Omar | KEREM YUCEL/AFP/Getty

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‘Offensive’ Rumors About Their Relationship

Since 2016, when Omar first ran for office, she has been forced to contend with the claim — which she has called “absurd and offensive” — that Elmi was actually her brother and the two had really wed to advance his own immigration case. This allegation traced back to a Somali forum, according to the Star-Tribune.

Although her 2016 statement was released in order to “put these rumors to rest and return to what really matters,” their union continued to attract scrutiny, fanned by negative coverage from conservative media outlets.

Earlier this year, Omar was reportedly fined by the Minnesota Campaign Finance and Public Disclosure Board, for paying a tax lawyer with campaign funds in order to amend joint tax returns she had filed with Hirsi when she was still legally married to Elmi.

In June, President Trump — who notoriously told Omar, an outspoken critic of his policies, to “go back” where she came from — brought up the rumors about Elmi and Omar while speaking to reporters.

“I know nothing about it,” he said, according to Business Insider, but added, “I’m sure that somebody will be looking at that.”

Affair Allegation

In August, a political consultant’s estranged wife alleged as part of their own divorce that Omar had an affair with him, according to The Washington Post and other outlets, citing court documents.

The consultant, who had worked for Omar in the past, according to the Post, reportedly denied this — charging the accusation was part of a smear campaign.

Omar also denied the affair in a television interview with local news station WCCO, the Post reported.

A spokeswoman for her congressional office declined to comment to PEOPLE on her divorce filing. Her attorney did not return a call. Hirsi could not be reached.