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Abstract

In the past, scholarly research in extremism and terrorism studies tended to analyse women’s engagement with violent ideology-based groups from a normative angle, framing female commitment to radical ideologies and violence as cases of inherent victimization or as instigated by a dominant male. Particularly in the negotiation of women’s transnational support of terror organizations in Syria, gendered frames of political agency have been reproduced in the institutional practices of the judiciary. Taking the case of Germany and four appeals lodged at the Federal Court of Justice between 2015 and 2017 as examples, this article analyses gendered conceptions of agency in argumentation with respect to criminal liability in the context of extremist engagement in Syria. It identifies, first, the gendered construction of defendants before the courts and inherently gendered assumptions about agency and, second, a formal organizational understanding in the terrorism clauses as the two underlying problems and suggests that current concepts in terrorism norms at national, EU and international levels deflect the focus on the wider conflict dynamics where civilians’ support to violence is concerned.