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Episode 92 – Prosecuting Female Jihadis with Tanya Mehra

Stephanie top left, Janet top right and Tanya below

This week we are looking at the prosecution of female jihadis – women who left Europe to join the so-called caliphate of Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS). How are these – to use the counter-terrorism (CT) jargon – violent extremist offenders (VEOs) prosecuted when they return home and how does that differ from how their male counterparts have been dealt with?

We sit down with Tanya Mehra, a Senior Research Fellow and Programme Lead (Rule of Law Responses to Terrorism) at the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism – The Hague.

She and her colleagues have recently pulled together the actual data on prosecutions and imprisonment from four European states into a book Female Jihadis Facing Justice. They wanted to inform policy decisions by reference to the actual figures. What they show is how complex the issue is and how varied the approaches have been towards female violent extremist offenders in the criminal justice system.

We discuss how these women what kinds of crimes these women have (and haven’t) been prosecuted with across Europe. And we touch on the common tropes like ‘jihadi brides’ in popular culture – how these women are portrayed as either ‘innocent victims’ or ‘evil monsters’, and how their roles, as women and mothers, in the so-called caliphate inform which crimes they have faced prosecution.

This week Tanya recommends the book The Rise of the Radical Right in the Global South, edited by Rosana Pinheiro-Machado, and also points us to the case of the female violent extremist offender Yousra L. in the Netherlands. An interesting case for Tanya, as Yousra can be viewed as both a victim and an offender. She is also the first and only female VEO charged with a war crime, while not having travelled to the conflict zone. It’s still under appeal.