On Thursday, we got what appears to be confirmation that the “hundreds” of suspects involved in a series of sexual assaults on German women were largely of Arab origin. According to German media, many of the men were asylum seekers who had recently entered the country from the war-torn Mid-East.
The assaults occurred in the city center in Cologne, where eyewitnesses and victims say groups of marauding New Year’s revelers accosted women, in some instances making off with their belongings. Attacks were also reported in Hamburg, and Stuttgart.
Initially, the incidents received little media coverage but soon the word was out and the backlash from the German public was palpable.
Protests were staged in Cologne and opposition lawmakers lambasted Chancellor Angela Merkel for her open-door migrant policy which some say is destined to rip Germany’s social fabric to shreds.
Meanwhile, Cologne mayor Henriette Reker got herself into a bit of hot water by suggesting that German women have a responsibility to deter attacks by staying at “arm’s length” from would-be assailants. She also said Germany “needs to explain to people from other cultures that the jolly and frisky attitude during our Carnival is not a sign of sexual openness.”
Apparently, Germany isn’t the only country that needs to “explain” things to refugees. Reports now suggest that women in Finland and Sweden experienced similar assaults on New Year’s Eve by asylum seekers.
“Finnish police reported Thursday an unusually high level of sexual harassment in Helsinki on New Year's Eve and said they had been tipped off about plans by groups of asylum seekers to sexually harass women,” AFP reports, adding that “three sexual assaults allegedly took place at Helsinki's central railway station on New Year's Eve, where around 1,000 mostly Iraqi asylum seekers had converged.”
"There hasn't been this kind of harassment on previous New Year's Eves or other occasions for that matter... This is a completely new phenomenon in Helsinki,” the city’s deputy police chief said. "The suspects were asylum seekers. The three were caught and taken into custody on the spot," Koskimaki told AFP.
Apparently, the attacks were premeditated. "Ahead of New Year's Eve, the police caught wind of information that asylum seekers in the capital region possibly had similar plans to what the men gathered in Cologne's railway station have been reported to have had," a police statement read.
And it wasn’t just Finland.
“Swiss police said several women were allegedly robbed and sexually assaulted in Zurich on New Year’s Eve, [in a] method 'a little bit similar' to that used in a spate of assaults in Germany,” The Herald Sun writes. “And it has now emerged that similar sex attacks were carried out in Austria, but police didn’t publicise the incidents ‘to protect the privacy of the victims’”.
Yes, "to protect the privacy of the victims" - or to protect against the prospect that publicizing the incidents would trigger a bloc-wide backlash against refugees, because while it's easy to say that the actions of seven individuals on a suicide mission in Paris aren't representative of the millions of asylum seekers flooding into Europe from Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan, it's a bit harder to claim that apparently coordinated sexual assaults by thousands of would-be asylum seekers don't say something about the extent to which integration may be, in Slovak PM Robert Fico's words, "impossible."
- Officials were therefore prevented by close people rings from advancing to help caller
- A man is quoted as saying: "I am Syrian, you have to treat me kindly Mrs. Merkel has invited me."
- Witnesses were threatened when they named perpetrators.
- People torn according to the report in front of the police residence permit, grinned and said: "You can send me anything, go get a new tomorrow." Whether they were genuine documents and what kind of documents, it is not apparent from the report.
- Granted restraining orders have been ignored;To take repeat offenders in custody, due to lack of capacity was not possible.
- After track closures due to overcrowding people had just walked on the side track and then on the rails back to the suspended platform.
- When boarding trains there were physical fights, it was the "law of the jungle".
"Women with or without accompaniment went through a literally 'gauntlet' by the heavily intoxicated men masses, as one can not describe it," the report reads.
There you have it. "Heavily intoxicated men masses," comprised of Syrians who told police that they had been invited by Angela Merkel. That's sure to go over well with the German public and opposition lawmakers.
Apparently, Germany is set to uninvite those responsible, as the justice minister said the country could deport some suspects. Of course identifying the culprits will be next to impossible. Here's The New York Times:
The police have so far been unable to apprehend anyone, a fact that Wolfgang Albers, Cologne’s chief of police, attributed to the chaos in which the assaults took place, despite there being dozens of officers on duty in the area.
“The women were in a very difficult situation,” Chief Albers said in an interview Wednesday with the public radio station WDR 5. “They were afraid, they wanted to get away, and of course they did not notice any specific faces.”
In Hamburg, the police said Wednesday that they had received 53 complaints, more than half of them alleging sexual harassment, from victims age 18 to 25. They appear to have been targeted in a similar fashion in that city’s Reeperbahn red-light and club district on New Year’s Eve. Victims and witnesses in Hamburg also described the attackers as being dark-skinned or “looking Arabic.”
The New Year’s Eve mass-scale assaults, the police said, involved groups of several men taking advantage of the crowds to target young women by surrounding them. While several perpetrators groped the women, others picked their pockets, stealing wallets and cellphones.
Even if the authorities are able to apprehend suspects, they biggest challenge will be for victims to identify their attackers, given that several men appeared to have been involved in the attacks on each woman.
Here's the latest from Merkel who, while stopping short of subjecting her own policy to criticism, seems to be changing her stance - if only gradually.
"Of course after what happened, there are several very serious questions which go beyond Cologne. Are there connections or collective patterns? Are there elements of condemnation of women?"
"We must vehemently work against that. I don't think these are single cases. People have a right, and we as a state institution have the obligation to give the right answers to this."
Meanwhile, the first version of Hitler's "Mein Kampf" to be published in Germany since World War II went on sale Friday.