Both the BBC and New York Times are reporting that about 100 women were sexually assaulted and robbed by gangs of North African or Arab men, aged 18 to 35, on New Year’s Eve in Cologne, Germany, with less numerous but similar attacks coming in Stuttgart and Hamburg.
Police were reportedly questioning people, but no arrests had been made as of midnight Tuesday.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel was said to be “disgusted” by the attacks. Everything must be done, the BBC quoted her as saying, “to find the perpetrators as quickly and comprehensively as possible and punish them, regardless of their origin or background.”
But although her policy of welcoming Syrian refugees was called into question when it was initiated, coordinated crimes of this sort would be illegal in any culture. One German official even suggested this might be a new, unprecedented scale of organized crime, according to a video on the New York Times, which is in German.
Several women, however, have posted comments on the Times article, saying they were regularly harassed as they walked through the streets of Germany, the Netherlands, and Sweden, not by European men but by men of North African or Arab descent.
The situation in Cologne is perhaps an extreme case, but the BBC has also quoted individuals alleging terrible sexual assault behavior on the part of Arab men in Germany. One man was quoted as saying: “The attackers grabbed [my 15-year-old daughter’s] and my partner’s breasts and groped them between their legs.”
And a woman said of herself and a female friend who was accompanying her on New Year’s Eve:
They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend’s bag. Another tried to get us into his ‘private taxi.’ I’ve been in scary and even life-threatening situations, and I’ve never experienced anything like that.
Although German officials aren’t linking these acts to refugees, many others are.
“New Year’s Eve attacks attributed to Arab and North African men threaten to fan the flames of Germany’s refugee debate,” wrote Niraj Chokshi in the Washington Post.
Reaching any conclusions about who committed these crimes is impossible at this point, though the attacks would seem to have been coordinated in some way, having all taken place on the same night and in the same country.
German officials are speculating that this may be a new form of organized crime they have heretofore not seen. As that may be a very real possibility, I would strongly advise all school groups transporting young women into Germany to reconsider those trips until German officials confirm that this is not some new form of organized crime.
If, on the other hand, German officials confirm that this crime day was made worse by the high presence of refugees in Cologne and other cities, I would strongly advise all school groups transporting young women into Germany to be advised, as Henriette Reker, mayor of Cologne is considering, as quoted in the Times:
Ms. Reker said that city officials would begin working on measures to help young women protect themselves and to explain the city’s attitudes and norms to its many newcomers.
“We will explain our Carnival much better to people who come from other cultures,” she said, “so there won’t be any confusion about what constitutes celebratory behavior in Cologne, which has nothing to do with [candor, especially candid sexuality].”
I realize many school administrators (and parents of school groups planning trips to Germany) will be thinking that the city of Cologne should be responsible for protecting its residents and visitors, but German officials are here saying that they are not able to do that at this time. It is therefore up to women to protect themselves against sexual assault.
As Ms Reker suggests, do not be sexually frank. In Muslim culture, that includes walking on the street by yourself, unaccompanied by a male person. And do not wear clothes that might be considered “Western” or “provocative” in places where Muslim men might be present and on the prowl.
It strikes me as blaming the victims a little for these assaults, but safety is paramount. It comes at the price of a little freedom to move about and wear the clothes you might like to wear, but the refugee crisis, to which Germany responded with open arms, is a distinct humanitarian crisis, the bounds of which the Western world has never seen.
To the refugees who have so far rejected German ways and values: Assimilate now, or governments will have no choice but to close their borders. Hunt down these criminals before blame falls upon you. I realize you aren’t responsible for their actions, but unless the German authorities are able to arrest and punish the perpetrators of these horrible crimes against women, your status as refugees is in jeopardy as the Western world jumps to conclusions.
The Canadian government, simultaneously acknowledging the humanitarian crisis and the difficulty of assimilating large groups at once from a very different culture and society, has accepted refugees, but no single men between the ages of 16 and 50. In Germany, more than three-fourths of the refugees entering the country have been men. In hindsight, our neighbors to the north appear to be pretty wise.