A Deutsche Welle report I heard on NewsRadio began along these lines:
- She was pulled to the ground by her long blond hair, then a man laid down on top of her.
An extensive investigation by Der Spiegel tells us that groups of men humiliated, sexually assaulted and robbed women around the main railway station in Cologne on New Year’s Eve. What happened was not new and was not limited to Cologne. What was different was the scale, the presumed predominance of men from North Africa amongst the perpetrators, and the timing in relation to the dilemmas faced by the influx of refugees from Syria.
Ercan Yasaroglu is a social worker who works in the Kreuzberg district of Berlin. He was appalled but not surprised by what happened.
- “What happened in Cologne has been happening here in Berlin for a year, but on a smaller scale,” he says.
In recent months, he has seen how, time and again, women are verbally harassed, then groped, then robbed. “This is not some sudden loss of inhibition, but calculated action by criminals.” Thieves intentionally distract women with sexual assaults, he says, and many of those responsible are from countries in North Africa. Some of them have had their applications for asylum rejected, leaving them with a “tolerated” immigration status and a miserable life.
Kreuzberg, he says, has been carved up in the last year or two by a dozen or so organised gangs, roughly 10 to 15 people in size, who are increasingly terrorizing residents and tourists.
- The number of registered drug-related crimes has increased by 90 percent in the last year, the number of pickpocket thefts by 30 percent. Numerous business owners in the area complained in a letter to the city government of the new level of aggressiveness at Kottbusser Tor. The square is dominated by criminals.
From the Spiegel account, what happened in Cologne seems to have included organised groups, but was more chaotic. Humiliation, sexually assault and robbery occurred singly or in any combination. Many of the perpetrators were described as “drunk”. This led to a social psychologist from Potsdam University interviewed by Deutsche Welle to think that the events may have been spontaneous rather than planned. Yet many of the events described in Der Spiegel and other accounts do seem planned.
One witness told The Guardian that she saw three Arabic speaking males who were “clearly giving instructions and directing a lot of the males”. In one case (I’ve lost the link) 11 young women went out in a group. They found themselves surrounded by 20 to 30 men, then comprehensively groped. They were also robbed.
The performance of the police seemed inept and confused. One police spokesperson said the crowd was so dense that they had no idea what was happening a few metres away. The police performance has been roundly criticised and the police chief has been sacked. It seems they were completely undermanned, although they had twice as many on duty compared to the previous year. Some thought their attitude on the night rather slack and permissive, including allowing fire crackers to be thrown into the crowd.
One report said at least 121 complaints were made to police, three quarters of them involving sexual assault or harassment, meaning a quarter did not involve sex. The Guardian says there were reports of incidents from seven other German cities:
- Out of a total of 167 complaints to police of attacks in the cities – around two-thirds of them being described as sexual assault, including two cases of rape – 100 relate to Cologne, and 53 to Hamburg.
We can’t know how many victims didn’t make a complaint. Accounts of the number of men making trouble varied from 400 to 1500. Identifying the culprits seems nigh impossible. From The Guardian:
- …the German interior ministry said 31 people had been identified as being involved in the violence, of whom 18 were asylum seekers suspected of crimes ranging from theft to assault. None of the asylum seekers was suspected of committing sexual assaults of the kind that prompted outrage in Germany over the past week.
Plate said the vast majority of the criminal acts documented by federal police on the night were related to theft and bodily injury. Three were related to sexual assaults, but police had no names linked to them.
Of the 31 people identified, nine were Algerian, eight Moroccan, five Iranian, four Syrian and two German, plus an Iraqi, a Serb and a US citizen.
Now get this, and get it well. The social psychologist from Potsdam who was an expert on sexual assault said there was no causal link between ethnicity and sexual assault. Other things came into play. She mentioned education level, but presumably employment status is also a factor. Police confirm that refugees are less likely to commit crimes than Germans.
Yet in Cologne on that night they did, and the connection being made in Germany and beyond is that refugees from Islamic cultures are the problem and what happens flows inevitably from letting them in.
I got the police link from an article by Majid Nawaz who accepts that in general refugees are less likely to commit crimes than Germans, but says that cultural differences do exist in the treatment of women and must be explicitly addressed:
- Norway has led the way here, offering voluntary nationwide classes that expand upon Norwegian social and sexual norms to newly arrived migrant men. The German border town of Passau in Bavaria, has already started a similar program for male refugees, while Danish politicians aim to approve the same measure after a string of attacks in Denmark. Among other measures, it is my view that such classes should be mandatory for new arrivals across the continent. These classes should form part of a citizenship, integration, and employment course, before residency permits are provided.
Meanwhile Angela Merkel’s closest supporters are telling her that things simply can’t go on as they are. It seems clear that the attacks in Cologne and elsewhere had nothing to do with the recent surge in Syrian refugees. However, the chances of other European countries taking Syrian refugees have been reduced, some say eliminated. Plans to fast-track the deportation of economic refugees, already under way, will no doubt intensify.
Meanwhile polls on whether Britain should leave the EU are showing a 6-point Brexit advantage since the Paris massacre, Cologne sex attacks and Syrian migrant crisis.
In the AFR today, an article reported that Merkel’s party, the CDU was in open revolt, as was the Bavarian sister party, the CSU.
Merkel’s plan was to strengthen the border at the extremity of the EU, share the refugees that did come through evenly, help Turkey and other first receivers to cope and try to stop the war. She is concerned that, were Germany to begin turning people back at its borders, the Schengen system of border-free travel in Europe would collapse.
Eric Hobsbawm said that with the almost total removal of the Germans and the Jews from eastern European countries from WW2 those countries have become effectively monocultural. To them refugees, especially Muslims, are dangerous, and they don’t want them. Resistance is being led by Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico. By July he may well be president of the EU Council of Ministers.
Merkel has asked for time to try out her ideas. Will she get it, and what, seriously, does anyone else have to offer, apart from video cameras everywhere and instant deportation of convicted offenders? Der Spiegel ends with:
- part of the truth is the fact that politicians like to talk about integration but have not yet given any indication that they understand the magnitude of the challenge facing them. Another part of the truth is this: German society is becoming increasingly divided.