A mom's heartbreaking question less than 24 hours after her daughter was killed.

In the early hours of June 18, 17-year-old Nabra Hassanen was abducted, assaulted, and murdered in Virginia.

The heartbreaking incident has left her family and the local Muslim community in shock, searching for answers amid senseless tragedy.

Nabra and a small group of friends had just left a local mosque, where the All Dulles Area Muslim Society (ADAMS) was holding late-night prayers in the final days of Ramadan, and they were headed to a nearby fast-food joint to eat before fasting began at sunrise, the Washington Post reported.


The suspect — later identified as 22-year-old Darwin Martinez Torres — reportedly confronted Nabra and her friends on their walk. In the chaos of the moment, the friends dispersed, running back to the safety of the mosque, and Nabra was left behind. Hours later, her body was found in a nearby pond.

Was Nabra targeted because of her Muslim faith?

Still reeling from the news of her daughter's death, her mother, Sawsan Gazzar, was left pondering, why Nabra?

But she thinks she knows the answer.

"I think it had to do with the way she was dressed and the fact that she's Muslim," Gazzar said. "Why would you kill a kid? What did my daughter do to deserve this?"

During a news conference, the Fairfax County Police Department said it is not investigating the murder as a hate crime as there "doesn't seem to be any indication" it was.

Nabra's mother, of course, is not off base for thinking her daughter may have been murdered because of her Muslim faith though.

Anti-Islam attitudes and violence have been on the rise in America and Europe.

Just last month, a report by Muslim civil rights group CAIR found alarming spikes in U.S. hate crimes targeting the Islamic community. After a dramatic increase in incidents between 2014 and 2015, the number of cases rose yet again — another 44% last year.

Demonstrators march in the streets of Queens, New York, after a Muslim was murdered in 2016. Photo by Kena Betancur/AFP/Getty Images.

This isn't just an American problem either.

The same day Nabra was murdered in Virginia, a van plowed through a crowd outside a north London mosque, killing at least one person and injuring several others. According to reports, bystanders heard the driver scream, "I want to kill all Muslims," as he drove.

The media is already being heavily criticized for humanizing the London suspect, who was taken into custody, by using terms like the "white van driver," and not "terrorist," while reporting on the situation.

Nothing can mend the broken hearts of Nabra's grieving loved ones. But the internet is doing everything it can to ease the burden of loss during their time of need.

In the wake of the Nabra's death, multiple fundraising platforms — on sites like LaunchGood and GoFundMe — have rallied supporters to help her family pay for immediate expenses, like funeral costs.

In less than 24 hours, they've raised a staggering $180,000.

The financial support is certainly heartening. But the messages of love on the crowdfunding pages are maybe just as powerful: "May your beautiful soul rest in peace habiti."

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Photo by Tod Perry

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