Mackay Student Taking On International Refugee Law in the U.S.

Marryum Kahloon

A former Mackay student will embark on postgraduate study at one of the most prestigious universities in the United States after being named a Fulbright scholar.

Marryum Kahloon, 23, was school captain at Whitsunday Anglican School in 2010 and went on to study law at Bond University on the Gold Coast of Queensland.

She will study a Masters of Laws, focusing on public international law and international refugee law, at either Georgetown University in Washington DC or Columbia University in New York city.

Ms Kahloon, who is working in international law in Paris before travelling to the United States in August, said she would use the nine months of study to learn from world-renowned experts.

“The US itself is quite a topical area to be situated in when studying this,” she said.

“There are a lot of academics, both in DC and New York, very focused on reforms to the system.

“There’s actually a conference next year in New York where a lot of countries will be coming together to discuss how the system can be reformed to deal with increasing numbers of irregular migration, so that’s what I hope to participate in.”

Focusing on reforms to international law

A Pakistan-born Muslim immigrant, Ms Kahloon said Donald Trump’s presidency and newly-instated immigration ban had given her passion for international law a new perspective.

“Pakistan isn’t one of the countries that has been listed on the ban yet and Australia, I think, has come to an agreement now to say that dual citizens will not be impacted,” she said.

“But the Trump administration is so prone to vacillating in its policy stance that I don’t really know what the situation will be like come August when I intend to go over to the US.

“To be in a situation where I might personally be affected by it really makes you quite invested in considering the legalities of it on an international level and more on a domestic level as well.”

Always felt welcomed in Mackay

While completing her senior high school years in Mackay, in north Queensland, Ms Kahloon said her family always felt welcomed and included.

“My parents were both doctors [in the Mackay area] and their patients treated them with the utmost of respect,” she said.

“My mum is very evidently Muslim; she wears the hijab [and] my school was really accommodating.

“I think the fact an Anglican school allowed a Muslim person to be school captain was pretty extraordinary, it shows a great level of open-mindedness.

“I had to wear tights under my skirt and that was not a problem at all for my school. It didn’t impede on my ability to be a good student.”

Important time to study international law

Ms Kahloon said her positive experience as a Muslim in north Queensland made it even more disheartening to watch the increasing tide of anti-Muslim sentiment around the world.

“I think that there’s a lot of really great people in the Mackay region but politicians especially are trying to take advantage of people who maybe haven’t had experiences with the religion, to kind of inflame them and use it for their own political capital, which is unfortunate,” she said.

“I think generally worldwide there is also this kind of shift away in politics from concrete reality, truth and fact”

“If a fact seems like it’s not going in your favour, there’s no problem at all for you to lie or misrepresent what that means.

“Although conditions are still really unfavourable on a domestic policy level, I think the US still has a lot to offer in terms of the knowledge the academics there have.

“The knowledge that exists there and the drive for reform still stays the same.”

By Sophie Meixner, ABC
Originally published on ABC News