The past decade has seen a significant raise in the number of forcibly displaced people. As per the latest report by the UNHCR, in 2007, this population numbered 42.7 million; over the last 10 years, this figure has increased by over 50 per cent. By the end of 2017, 68.5 million individuals were forcibly displaced worldwide as a result of persecution, conflict, or generalized violence. Out of this more than two third came from a total of just 5 countries: Syrian Arab Republic, Afghanistan, South Sudan, Myanmar and Somalia.
The identities of refugees often remain in a flux. They feel like outsiders for long even after getting asylum. The shifting of refugees into new social, cultural and economical environments can be disruptive to their identity and their sense of ‘Heimat’ or belonging. Most often, this comes with joblessness or a total overhaul of their existing profession leading to a loss of their identity as they formerly understood it. An artisan or tailor from Syria or Sudan may need to work as a daily wage unskilled worker in a new city to feed his family. In addition to the traumatic loss of identity, this also leads to the loss of historic art and craft forms. ‘refugee’ becomes a lifelong burden to bear.
They have shown all that it is possible to lead a prosperous life even after having been through forced displacement. One such example is the newly appointed US Congresswomen, Ilhan Omar. She made history by becoming the first ever Somalian – American Muslim (one of only 2 Muslims to be elected) refugee to be elected to Congress. She also made history by wearing the hijab on the floor of the house of representatives, lifting a 181-year-old ban on any kind of head covering on the house floor. She was later ceremonially sworn in on the Quran with Islamic prayer beads in her hands.
Ilhan got interested in politics when she was 14 years old. She was working as an interpreter for her grandfather at local DFL (a local political party in Minnesota) Caucuses,. When she saw her neighbors coming together to advocate for change at the grassroots level, she fell in love with with the democratic process. As a student at Edison High School in Minneapolis, she became an organizer and has been a coalition builder since then. She worked as a community educator at the University of Minnesota and has been a devoted progressive activist in the DFL party for many years. Before she ran for office, Ilhan was a Humphrey Policy Fellow and served as a senior Policy Aide for a Minneapolis City Council Member.
Born in Somali, Omar had to flee the war-hit nation in 1995 when she was only 8. She spent years at refugees camps in Kenya before her family got asylum in the United States. They settled in in Virginia and then eventually moved to Minneapolis. She stands as a role model and beacon of hope for refugees, especially women of marginalised communities including the makers working at our all women factory in Delhi. The makers selected her as their ‘Heimat human’.
To commemorate her role in inspiring the makers, we are sending her a custom Heimat Hijab Super Cowl Dress.