Nabeela Syed, a 23-year-old Muslim woman of Indian origin, was elected to the Illinois General Assembly in the recent midterm elections.
A Democrat, Nabeela defeated Republican incumbent Chris Bos. She shared the news on Twitter and said, “My name is Nabeela Syed. I’m a 23-year-old Muslim, Indian-American woman. We just flipped a Republican-held suburban district. And in January, I’ll be the youngest member of the Illinois General Assembly.”
Syed also wrote a long note on Instagram where she talked about her political journey and her experience while canvassing for the elections.
“We won this race because the people of the 51st District want a representative who is ready to fight for them and their families. I knocked every door in this district. Tomorrow, I start knocking them again to thank them for placing their trust in me. I’m ready to get to work,” she posted.
She remembers Donald Trump’s victory in 2016—when she was a high school senior—and the racist, Islamophobic rhetoric being parroted around her.
“The day Trump got elected, I remember I cried in every single one of my classes,” she told NBC News. “I felt like this country was not for us. I was like, ‘I don’t know if I belong here.’ This is the only home I’ve ever known, and I was questioning whether or not I belonged here.”
Six years later, in November 2022, another election has come to mean something entirely different for Syed.
“It’s important for me—growing up in this community and knowing what it feels like to not belong—to make sure everyone feels like they do belong,” she said. “It’s a big moment for my family personally, and I hope it feels to other young people and to women of color that we can do this. We have space here.”
Syed’s parents moved to Illinois from Hyderabad, India, in the 1980s. She graduated from the University of California, Berkeley with a degree in Political Science and Business Administration, where she served as the president of a pro-bono consulting organization assisting local businesses and nonprofits.