The Birth of a Dream

Born in Iraq, Dalia recalls her childhood memories of traveling abroad with her parents. That’s when she was first exposed to American and Western journalism. “It was unlike anything I had experienced growing up with state-run media in Iraq,” Dalia explained. “I was exposed to multiple viewpoints and investigative journalism—something unimaginable to me at the time. And the same journalists reporting on controversies a day earlier were still on the air the next day! This blew my mind—that they weren’t arrested or didn’t vanish as they would have if they were in Iraq. That level of freedom provided a spark inside me. That was when my dream of becoming a journalist first took root.”

In Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, however, the only path the school for journalism provided was to become a mouthpiece of the Ba’ath Party, an ideology based on the principles of Arab socialism, secular Arab nationalism, and Pan-Arabism, that promoted the one-party state and rejected political pluralism. Instead, she followed her parents’ footsteps, studied theater, and received her Bachelor’s degree from the Institute of Fine Arts in Baghdad in 1988, just as the eight-year Iran-Iraq War was winding down. That same year, Dalia and her family left most of their possessions behind and fled the country as Saddam Hussein’s focus and fury switched from across his eastern border to the harsher forms of tyranny he brought down upon his own people.

Dalia settled for a time in the UAE where she launched her career in journalism by working for Sharjah TV. After Iraq invaded Kuwait in August 1990, Dalia moved to Jeddah, Saudi Arabia to take part in establishing the radio station, Voice of the Iraqi Opposition.

America’s Outstretched Hand

It was in Saudi Arabia where she met J. Christopher Stevens (the future U.S. Ambassador to Libya murdered in Benghazi on September 11, 2012), who was then serving as a consular and economic officer for the United States Foreign Service in Riyadh. He played an instrumental role in helping Dalia and her family immigrate legally to the U.S. in 1993.

Dalia first came to the U.S. on a tourist visa after the First Gulf War in 1991 to visit family and she quickly fell in love with America, its culture and its freedoms. “That you could say anything you wanted in America without fear of the secret police or that your success would be determined based on your individual skills was something completely new to me. I wanted to be here and become a part of the American fabric,” Dalia recalled. “I would be free to pursue my dreams as a woman, a secular Muslim, but most importantly, as an American.”

a journalist and activist

In the U.S. it didn’t take long for Dalia to surpass the dreams she held as a child. She continued her career as a journalist and five years later, Dalia became an anchor and writer for Voice of America—fulfilling the dream she had as a child when her grandmother would tune in to the station in secret over AM radio while living in Iraq.

While serving as a political correspondent in Washington, DC for the Middle East powerhouse news network, Al-Arabiya, the U.S. invaded and toppled the Hussein regime in Iraq in 2003. She jumped at the opportunity to become an anchor for Al-Hurra TV, the U.S. government-owned Arabic language satellite TV channel that broadcasts news to audiences in the Middle East and North Africa. She worked from Washington from December 2003 until April 2005, including stints as a White House correspondent, and she continued her work for the U.S. network in Baghdad until March 2007.

Hoping to further assist the U.S. in its efforts to turn full control of the country back to Iraqis, she began working with the U.S. Department of Defense-run Multi-National Security Transition Command – Iraq, in Baghdad as a Media Advisor in their Public Affairs Office. There she helped develop a new Iraqi news center and train Iraqi security ministries on how to develop and sustain professional media offices, modeled after the freedoms she came to enjoy in America. Dalia returned once again to her journalist roots at the end of 2007, reporting from Iraq, Lebanon, the United Kingdom, and eventually back in the U.S.

With over three decades of reporting from the capital cities of the Middle East to the U.S. Dalia has written, produced, and hosted live shows on TV and radio in both English and Arabic. Over the course of her career, she has interviewed a variety of world leaders, such as former President Jimmy Carter, First Lady Barbara Bush, Secretary of State Colin Powell, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and many more government leaders in the Middle East.

Part of the American Fabric

Grateful for the opportunities America had provided her, Dalia was puzzled to hear the divisive and hateful rhetoric coming from Ilhan Omar, who was newly elected to the U.S. Congress in 2018, representing Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District.
"I saw the direction so-called progressives were trying to take us and Ilhan Omar was one of their most outspoken leaders,” Dalia explained. “I have many titles—a journalist, an analyst, an activist, a woman, a refugee, a secular Muslim—but one title supersedes all else and it’s the one I’m most proud of: I’m an American. Ilhan Omar’s regressive view focuses on the opposite, on identity politics and grievances. Identity politics isn’t about respecting and understanding our differences. It is about punishing people for those differences. It pits neighbor against neighbor and tears at the very fabric of our country.

I bore witness to the consequences of Omar’s version of an ideal government,” Dalia continued. “It was what I left behind in Iraq—the sectarian violence of warring factions or the brutal rule of an all-powerful dictator. I didn’t come to America to import the pathologies I left behind. I couldn’t understand how someone as blessed as Ilhan was—to take part in the American dream—could come to the U.S. and promote division, hatred, and a form of Marxism wrapped in the trappings of Islam. She is importing the worst ideas that have a proven ruinous impact. "

Coming to Minnesota

As a journalist, Dalia began posing questions to Ilhan Omar in 2019 but they were never answered. She thought maybe if she came to Minneapolis—the heart of Omar’s district—she would at least better understand the people who voted for her, if not glean some answers from Ilhan Omar herself. Dalia fell in love with the Twin Cities, made fast friends with people from all walks of life, and decided to move to the North Loop in downtown Minneapolis in the summer of 2019.

Dalia understood the odds of defeating Ilhan at the ballot box were slim but she decided to run as a Republican briefly in 2020 before withdrawing in favor of another candidate. What she witnessed in terms of lockdowns and mandates during COVID-19 and the riots in the aftermath of George Floyd made Dalia question the durability of America’s democracy when threatened by the weaponization of collective grievances. As foreboding to her was what she witnessed happening to American news media, which had provided her earliest dreams to become a journalist and set her life on a trajectory that led her to America and national service.
"You know, I’ve witnessed what it’s like to experience an Orwellian state-run media
in Iraq, where the so-called truth is whatever the news tells you, even if the line is the opposite the next day and strains the bounds of credulity,” Dalia said. “It’s quite another thing to live in a democratic constitutional republic, where the news media is considered ‘the Fourth Estate,’ and watch it—willingly—morph into a version of state-run media on behalf of one political party. It’s a dangerous path we’re traveling down. "
Dalia is running as a Republican for U.S. Congress in Minnesota’s 5th Congressional District because she takes her oath of U.S. citizenship seriously and change has to start somewhere. This district needs to be represented by someone who believes in the politics of inclusion and attraction, not division based on identity politics. “This country gave me the opportunity to participate in the American dream, and this city welcomed me with open arms, and I want to protect and nurture those values,” Dalia declared. “This city needs leadership that is invested in its residents as individuals who have their own dreams for themselves and their children. They need someone to better reflect their values in Washington. And I believe, at the end of the day, I will have the support of those who understand the simple truth: We deserve better.”