Mazahir Salih

Center for Worker Justice, Iowa City City Council

In November 2017, Mazahir Salih was elected to an at-large seat on the Iowa City council and became the first openly Muslim candidate elected in the city, and the first Sudanese-American person elected to public office in the United States.

Mazahir came to the United States in 1997 from Sudan, settling first in Virginia. In Virginia, she became a US citizen, met her husband, and started a family. Mazahir and her family came to Iowa in 2012, and she graduated in May 2016 with an associate’s degree from the University of Iowa.

Mazahir was still settling into her new home of Iowa City when she started working to make the community better. Almost by accident, she found herself at the first meeting for an effort that would become the Center for Worker Justice. The Center for Worker Justice was officially established in November 2012. She has since served with the Center in various roles, including vice president, president, and community organizer. Mazahir was part of the Center for Worker Justice’s effort to keep businesses committed to Johnson County’s $10.10 minimum wage. Mazahir and her colleagues at the center made in-person visits to businesses to speak to owners about the wage after the state Legislature stripped counties’ ability to set a higher minimum wage. She and the other activists gained commitments from over 160 businesses, many in downtown Iowa City. Mazahir has also served as an advocate for employees facing wage theft. She and other center workers have recovered nearly $60,000 in unpaid wages for workers.

Mazahir has also served on a number of Iowa City boards and committees and community organizations like the city’s Community Police Review Board, Iowa Valley Global Food Project, the City Manager’s Equity Round Table and the Black Voices Project. She also works as general secretary of the Sudanese-American Women and Children Organization.

Mazahir is not only a bridge-builder between various immigrant communities and those who were born in Iowa and/or the United States, but she has the gift of making others feel comfortable in her presence.

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