Interview with Iman Jodeh

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

Gavin Moulton
Director, External Affairs


For Arab American Heritage Month, MEPC is highlighting Arab American voices who are making a difference in and beyond the policy world. MEPC had the pleasure of interviewing Iman Jodeh, a State Representative for House District 41 in Aurora, Colorado and a recipient of MEPC’s 40 Under 40. Jodeh is also the founder of Meet the Middle East, an education non-profit aimed at fostering relationships between the US and the Middle East. In this interview, MEPC discusses Jodeh’s goals as a representative and a founder of a non-profit, as well as the value she finds in her Palestinian background.

In 2020, your election as Colorado’s first Muslim lawmaker made international headlines. What do you hope your election conveys to a global audience? 

My hope is that people who have preconceived notions about Islam or what it is to be Palestinian, especially as an Arab American, Muslim woman, can understand that we are empowered.  I also truly hope that I can inspire the next generation of women and girls, that they see I can hold the door open for them, and they can do the same for those that follow. They can be an expert on something they are passionate about and elevate themselves in any arena.

What is your top priority as a representative? 

My priority will always be to simply help people. I have the opportunity to do that through policy, mentorship and education. Anytime I can protect people’s human rights, whether it’s centered around housing, healthcare, our climate, or jobs and education, I want to make sure that everyone is afforded these rights regardless of their residency status, the color of their skin, religion or their zip code. 

Could you tell us more about your work with Meet the Middle East? 

Meet the Middle East (MTME) was based on my passion for education and advocacy. I wanted to create a platform for Americans who want to explore the Middle East through education. Education came in the form of classes, cultural events, consulting and immersion travel to one of the most misunderstood regions of the world and the people that call it their home. I wanted to use unbiased academia as a medium to allow Americans to feel empowered that they are truly educated about the Middle East and dismantle the perception that people who share my identity are unable to express their lived experiences through other than anger and hate.

How do you bridge the divide between the political establishment and community activism? 

There have been many times I have been the only person in the room with my identity markers, and that is okay. I have always used and will continue to use these moments as a way to educate those around me about my faith and heritage. Thus, I have approached my role as an elected official and as a community advocate as one and the same. 

Do you have advice for Arab Americans interested in running for political office? 

My advice for Arab Americans interested in running for office is to be unapologetic about who you are. Understand that you have the power to put an end to stereotypes that Arab Americans have faced for decades. Also, be incredibly humble about the spaces you occupy as an elected official while understanding that you have a right to be in these spaces.

Arab American Heritage Month aims to promote Arab culture and history. Do you have a favorite Palestinian cultural tradition? 

All of it. However, one first thing that comes to mind is the food; I’m sure it has something to do with the comfort I feel as it relates to my mother. I also love that the thobe is distinctly Palestinian. The history of the thobe is often unknown, but speaks to the deep ties we have to our land and resiliency. This brings me to my next love: our land. From the olive trees that give us medicine, food and economic prosperity to the dates and organs, the land has become the emblem of our roots, literally and symbolically.

What is the most rewarding aspect of serving as representative?  

When I actually meet the people I am serving, it gives me the most grounding feeling, knowing that I can positively change a person’s life that needs help, that feels marginalized, unseen. If I can reverse that by the power of my legislation or my vote, I will always keep them at the center of my work. 

Do you have any future political plans? 

I feel fortunate to have this awesome opportunity to represent the people of Aurora in Colorado. Every day I am humbled by the fact that the people elected me and I want nothing more for them than to see themselves in their representation, whether through policy or identity, and this is where I want to be.

  • Middle East Policy

    Middle East Policy has been one of the world’s most cited publications on the region since its inception in 1982, and our Breaking Analysis series makes high-quality, diverse analysis available to a broader audience.

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