In order to escape an arranged marriage to her cousin, Hamna Zafar fled home at only 19 years old. And it ended up putting her right where she was meant to be!
Hamna Zafar had no choice but to abandon her home and family. It was the only way to escape the arranged marriage planned for her.
But that’s a pretty big burden for a young Pakistani-American woman.
Plans For Their Daughter’s Future
Raised in an immigrant home in Maryland, Hamna was accustomed to always meeting her parents' expectations. Nonetheless, Hamna had dreams of her own that involved building a career in the United States Air Force-not marrying her cousin in Pakistan and becoming a wife and mother before ever gaining independence.
Hamna never expected she'd be asked to submit to an arranged marriage. As a child, she heard her parents comment that she would be allowed to get an education. But, ultimately, she would marry and make a home with a man of their choosing. However, Hamna thought they would change their minds after being in American culture for those years.
She told People, "I was just expecting my family to kind of get used to the culture in the United States. Growing up, they never really mentioned arranged marriage."
So, it dumbfounded Hamna when, while on a 2019 family trip to Pakistan, she realized her engagement was the reason for the trip!
Hamna was a freshman in college at the time. She stated, "I thought it was a normal family trip to Pakistan. Then I saw the jewelry, the dresses. I was stepping into my 20s, and they wanted to make sure I knew I was engaged and not laying eyes on other guys."
Her husband-to-be was perfectly happy with the plan, but Hamna was beside herself. She endured the rest of the vacation simply trying to figure out what was happening and how to change the course of her life.
Hamna Zafar Flees To Escape Arranged Marriage
When Hamna's family returned to the United States, she tried to discuss the arrangement with her mother. But, clearly her family had not embraced American culture at all!
When Hamna's parents learned of her plan to escape the arranged marriage, she knew she had to take action.
With the help of a Navy recruiter, Hamna began staying at a budget hotel until she would be allowed to enlist. During the waiting, the pandemic struck, and Hamna nearly lost her resolve. She was broke and weary, and she knew that she would lose all contact with her parents and beloved sisters should she move forward.
That's when a college friend asked Hamna to move in with his family. With their help, Hamna was able to finish her Associate's Degree and finally enlist in 2022!
During that time, Oscar Abarca and his wife Claudia Barrera became "adoptive" parents to Hamna. They sent Hamna off to boot camp, and they were there when she graduated from basic training.
At a petite 5' 2" tall, Hamna had her work cut out for her. The physical demands and the mental challenges tested her beyond what she thought she could do. However, Hamna is determined and committed to her dreams. Oscar Abarca reminded his worried wife, "She's tiny, but she's strong."
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God Provides After Hamna Escapes Arranged Marriage
Even though Hamna is saddened that her parents didn't see her graduate and haven't responded to her attempts to contact them, she does have support from others. In addition to Oscar and Claudia, and her fellow airmen, Sgt. Robert Stewart and his wife have taken Hamna under their wings.
Sgt. Stewart said, "I told her she just needed someone to believe in you. She's not like any other airman. Her demeanor and her story - she’s like a gem."
Regarding Hamna's family, Claudia Barrera said, "I hope they realize the mistake they are making by pushing their child aside. Hamna is going to be what Hamna wants to be. And that's the beauty of the USA - that you get to choose who you want to marry and what kind of life you want to live."
Today, after managing to escape an arranged marriage, Airman Hamna Zafar protects New Mexico's Kirtland Air Force Base as an Air Force Security Defender. Thank you for your service, Airman Zafar, and thank you for your sacrifice!
"So if you are suffering in a manner that pleases God, keep on doing what is right, and trust your lives to the God who created you, for he will never fail you." 1 Peter 4:19
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Featured Image Credit: Instagram/People