Jordanian Carol Kaplanian moves between two very different worlds: Western Australia and the UWA campus - where she is in her second year of PhD studies - and Jordan where members of her immediate and extended family live.
Several years ago Carol followed her father and brother from Jordan to WA, doing undergraduate and Masters degrees at Curtin University of Technology. She then secured a postgraduate scholarship for research at UWA into the contentious issue of ‘honour killings' in Jordan. She is supervised by Dr Susan Young from the School of Social Work and Social Policy and Professor Samina Yasmeen, Director of the UWA Centre for Muslim States and Societies.
Carol's studies have introduced her to many women who are working to raise awareness of ‘honour' killings which, she says, were a taboo subject in the Middle East until fairly recently.
"In a society where there are huge gaps in education and gender, both men and women become victims of such traditions," she said.
"From a very early age, boys are filled with this absolute belief that as brothers, fathers and uncles they are the gatekeepers who must ‘cleanse the family's honour' if necessary. And they may consider that the family has been ‘dishonoured' if a woman loses her virginity before marriage, marries someone not approved by the family or even if she is raped.
"I believe I can help by writing in an academic context," she said. "I want to extend understanding of the underlying psychology behind such crimes and to demonstrate to what degree tradition and culture dictate the lives of people."
Carol's research involves data collection through interviews with judges, lawyers, parliamentarians, Islamic clergy, human rights activists and journalists. She is also examining court files of randomly selected cases, parliamentary debates and media coverage in Arabic and English language newspapers in Jordan over the past two decades.
Carol's parents fled their homes in Jerusalem in 1948 following fighting between Israeli settlers and Palestinians.
"They started a new life in Jordan, so they were very lucky I guess. Growing up in Jordan has enriched me. It is my home, it always will be, but I now have two homes.
"My family are of Armenian origin, but now we are Australian citizens of Palestinian, Jordanian background. My parents lived in Sydney in the 1970s to secure dual citizenship for us and give us educational opportunities."
She said that while Jordan's new King and Queen were building the education system significantly, and there were good education opportunities for women, an overseas education was very highly regarded in her homeland.
As part of her Masters degree, Carol studied human rights issues and cross-cultural counselling.
"That research made me aware of the role of cultural traditions and when I began my PhD, I knew exactly what I wanted to do and why," she said.
"My research is exploring the legal and social context in which a man who kills can face a maximum prison term of perhaps three or four years. So I have been speaking to people in Jordan involved in social policy and the law, along with doctors and forensic experts who deal with these incredibly brutal killings that are fuelled by tradition and culture."
Carol recently presented a paper Is there honour in honour crimes? an examination of notions surrounding religion, tradition, culture and policies at a recent conference at the Centre for Islamic Law and the Law School at Melbourne University.