Meet Marium Hamimi, an Afghan woman in the Australian Army

Capitan Marium Hamimi, a former Afghan refugee who serves in the Australian Army hopes to return to Afghanistan and train local Afghan female defense personnel.

Capitan Marium Hamimi

Source: Supplied

Capitan Hamimi, 32, was born in the Pakistani city of Peshawar to an Afghan refugee family and came to Australia when she was three years-old.

She studied pharmacy at Monash University in Melbourne and started working as a pharmacist, but that career path didn’t inspire her.

“I wanted to do something different and interesting, and the Australian army was that. It was just something different and interesting,” she tells SBS Dari.

So she joined the military in 2012 and since then has worked as a pharmacist at the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps.

Capitan Marium Hamimi
مریم حمیمی سه ساله بود که با خانواده‌اش به آسترالیا آمد. Source: Supplied

Her parents were not quite happy with the decision to begin with, and didn’t want their 25 year-old daughter who had never left Melbourne before to be away from them.

“It was something that was very different for them, but I think now they’ve come to understand,” she says.

Overcoming preconceptions

“There is a preconception or prejudice that if we could overcome, we would have more Afghans that would join the military,” she says.

“I think what needs to be understood is that the Australian military is very different and it’s quite positive being here.”

Marium Hamimi has served in Iraq last year.
مریم حمیمی سال گذشته برای خدمت به عراق فرستاده شده بود Source: Department of Veteran Affairs

“If you speak to a lot of the Afghan women that are in the army at the moment … the experience is very positive – very different to the military that we know in Afghanistan.”

As time passes, that “preconception or prejudice” seems to be left behind as the number of Australian-Afghan women serving in the Australian armed forces has now risen to six. That’s five in the Army and one in the Air Force.

According to the Department of Defence, 68 people who were born in Afghanistan have joined the Australian Defence Force since 1999 with 43 of them still in service.

The numbers reflect only those who have recorded Afghanistan as their country of birth, the Department said in a statement to SBS Dari.

“Defence is not able to determine if a member is specifically of Afghan descent,” the statement added.

Australian troops in Afghanistan
سربازان آسترالیایی و افغان Source: Flickr/ResoluteSupportMedia CC BY 2.0

Returning to Afghanistan

Since 2014, when Australian and other international troops withdrew from combat operations in Afghanistan, there are only a small number of Australian troops remaining in the war-torn country as part of the ‘The Resolute Support Mission’ to provide training, advice and assistance to Afghan security forces.

Capitan Hamimi, who served in Iraq last year, says she wants to go to Afghanistan and train local Afghan female military personnel.

More than 26,000 Australian soldiers have served in the country’s longest war in central Afghan province of Urozgan. The province is now largely controlled by the Taliban.

Looking for Halal food

Capitan Hamimi said she had difficulties finding halal food in the army when she first joined.

“The only difficulties in the first days were Halal food. Everywhere I was going I was asking for Halal food,” she says.

But she says her colleagues have been “very good and understanding” in helping her find Halal foods, reducing her responsibilities during Ramadan and during training.

Finding Halal food is no longer a problem in the army, she says.

3 min read
Published 30 April 2019 at 5:39pm
By Besmillah Mohabbat