In 2004, the Chicago Tribune referred to her as “the most watched TV reporter nobody in America has seen,” and this turn-of-phrase seemed stunningly apt. Baghdad-born Dalia al-Aqidi was 36, and a fixture of Middle East media.
In sharp contrast to programming on Qatar’s popular Al-Jazeera, Dalia was a leading voice on Alhurra, an American-sponsored television channel broadcasting in the Middle East and delivering a strongly pro-America message.
Al-Aqidi was the only Iraqi covering the 2004 presidential campaign within the traveling White House press corps, providing news on Washington to millions in the Arabic-speaking world.
Fifteen years later, the famed Iraqi reporter is running for Congress against the darling of the left, also an immigrant from a Muslim-majority country, a woman named Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn.
Omar was catapulted to leftist fame after being elected to represent Minnesota’s Fifth District in the 2018 midterms and espousing radically left-wing policies.
She eventually joined forces with three other socialist-leaning, freshman voices in the House, the anti-Trump foursome collectively being referred to as the “Squad.”
But Omar will have competition in the coming election from al-Aqidi. Dalia came to the United States in 1993 as a refugee, the daughter of Ghazwa al-Alkhalidi, a distinguished Iraqi actress, and Fakri al-Aqidi, a prominent figure in the Iraqi film industry.
Given her parents’ roles in the arts, her childhood was spent protected under the Iraqi government; however, as Saddam Hussein came to power and Dalia approached her late teens, she and her family realized something was grievously wrong with Saddam’s regime.
“I had nightmares for years and years that I wake up and I’m in the middle of Iraq during Saddam’s period. People would recognize me and run after me to try to capture me and I was running, running, running,” al-Aqidi told the Chicago Tribune.
“I left with two suitcases. My grandmother didn’t know. My aunts didn’t, my uncles. No one knew that we were leaving,” al-Aqidi said. “We had to hide the cash between the covers of the suitcase, knowing that if they catch us, we’ll be dead.”
Following her escape from Iraq, al-Aqidi traveled throughout the Middle East with her mother and infant brother, doing an eclectic mix of paid media stints, including hosting children’s shows, reporting news, and dubbing cartoons from English to Arabic.
At the advice of those in the Iraqi opposition, al-Aqidi and her mother eventually linked up with Radio Free Iraq in Saudi Arabia, where Dalia was able to hone her media skills more seriously.
Shortly thereafter, she moved to the United States. Since her arrival nearly three decades ago, Dalia has maintained her foothold in the media, working as a reporter at Alhurra and more recently, as a contributing writer to al-Arabiya.
She served as an anchor on several television news and commentary programs from Beirut, Lebanon and Tripoli, Libya. Away from the public eye, she led a team of analysts at an intelligence firm, providing cultural background and geopolitical analysis for both government and corporate clients, her work ultimately recognized by both the U.S. and Iraqi governments.
When I asked Dalia to explain her foray into the congressional space, her answer spoke to the profound duty she feels to replace Omar. “I am running for Congress in Minnesota’s Fifth District because I believe Ilhan Omar is doing irreparable harm to both Minnesota and to America—and she must be stopped,” she said.
“This wonderful country has given me so much. As an American, and especially as an immigrant and a Muslim, I felt it was my patriotic duty to try,” she said. “Her consistent antisemitism and hateful rhetoric are toxic; they serve only to gain attention for herself at the expense of our fellow Americans.”GO READ THE WHOLE THING.