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by Amy Hensler/Arab America Contributing Writer
On January 12th, Virginia’s 86th district held an election to pick the nominations for the House of Delegates District special election next month. Virginia’s 86th district contains portions of Loudoun and Fairfax Counties. The seat is open because former delegate, Jennifer Boysko, won the 33rd District state Senate seat earlier in the week. This vacancy left an opportunity for Arab American, Ibraheem Samirah, to gather support and win the Democratic nomination, thanks to the help of his Arab constituents.
Samirah is of Jordanian descent who grew up in Chicago’s suburbs with his family. His normal childhood was disrupted when his father traveled to Jordan to take care of his mother. What originated as a quick trip turned into something more permanent because when he tried to return to the U.S., his father was denied re-entry into the country. His family decided to relocate to Jordan so that they would not be separated from each other. The family continued to fight for his father’s reinstatement in the country, and after 11 years, they finally won.
His life in Amman included some struggles. He had a hard time getting access to the best education and healthcare institutions. He wanted to return to the U.S. so he and his family could have more opportunities. He ended up going to Boston University to practice dentistry and now has a community based dental practice in the DC-Metro area. His life of wanting access to education and healthcare to navigate his campaign promises. Dental school left him with crippling student debt, at the same time, he often watches patients’ struggle to pay for the care that they need. He is running for office because he wants to give back to the community, and make sure others do not face the same problems as he did; he helps families stay healthy, with more opportunities to succeed, and more time to spend together.
His message resonated with many members in the community. One Arab American, Maher Massis, went out of his way to make sure Samirah would be the Democratic nominee. He along with many other concerned community members would host fundraisers, donate money, knock on doors, pass out fliers, and most importantly, ensure that people went out to vote.
The Arab American community in this Virginia District was instrumental in getting him the nomination, and Massis feels as if this is only the beginning for the community. He states that “there is a political message that comes with Dr. Ibraheem’s win and that is that our community here in the Northern Virginia area is powerful. We have the resources, funds, and people, and we can turn out the vote. Politicians, including at the federal level, will realize that they need to pay closer attention to us.”
Massis loves that Samirah is proud of his Arab heritage, but most importantly, he chooses to help him because of the issues he supports. If elected delegate, Ibraheem “will fight to make sure that our public education system is fully funded, that universal pre-k is a right, not a privilege, that children always have access to a healthy meal, and that our post-secondary education institutions are affordable and accessible,” says Maher Massis.
Along with improving education in America, he wants to help Virginian’s commute by decreasing travel times, lowering toll costs, and expanding the districts public transportation systems. He also hopes to expand the Virginia Department of Health programs, and make sure that Virginia’s health insurance markets are fully compliant with the Affordable Care Act.
Samirah’s success was attributed to many members of the Arab community, and he believes that marginalized people in society are beginning to stand up for themselves at the polls, making governing bodies more accountable for their actions. “I want to thank the Arab American communities of Virginia, for taking their place in the civic process. We have made our United States better, and we deserve to feel proud of being patriotic. I look forward to uplifting all people, and to live up to the expectations of all,” says Ibraheem Samirah.
Massis and many other supporters are continuing to support Samirah’s campaign; this time with their eyes on winning the special election which will be held on February 19th, and it is unclear who Samirah will be running against.