Attacks in Cologne

Don't let racists hijack conversation on mass violence against women in Germany

Photo: Thomas Depenbusch

German police are currently investigating a mass attack in Cologne during New Year’s Eve celebrations where women were accosted, mugged and sexually assaulted. Between 500 and 1,000 men believed to be between the ages of 15 and 35 and described as drunk and aggressive are alleged to have been behind the attacks on revelers gathered in the city’s downtown train station.

Your ad here
Don't like ads?
Automated ads help us pay our journalists, servers, and team. Support us by becoming a member today to hide all automated ads:
Become a member

UPDATE January 7, 3:45 p.m. EST: Media reports now say that 121 women have made complaints of sexual assault and theft. The number of perpetrators is unknown, and the number of 500 to 1,000 appears to have been drawn from a large crowd of men setting off small fireworks. It is unknown at this time if that crowd had any connection to the much smaller group of men responsible for the assaults and theft. The ethnic origins of the perpetrators are also unconfirmed.

Police said the men appeared to be North African or Arab in appearance, but the nationality and residency status of the suspects is still unknown, and no one has been arrested.

Sixty complaints were filed to police, a third of which were linked to sexual assault, and one report filed of rape. Women were also reportedly targeted in similar incidents in Hamburg and Stuttgart.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel immediately called for authorities to find the perpetrators as “quickly and comprehensively as possible and to punish them without regard to their origin or background.”

German Federal Minister of the Interior Thedore de Maiziere criticized police for being slow to respond, and questions are being asked as to how they failed to realize until much later that crimes were taking place on such a large scale. According to a BBC report, the minister also emphasized there should not be any general suspicion towards refugees, at least "at this stage of the investigation,” adding, "But if North Africans were the perpetrators, for which there is some indication, people should not gloss over it."

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker caused public outrage by resorting to victim blaming when she urged young women and girls to adopt a code of conduct that meant keeping an "arm's length" distance from strangers and sticking to a group of people.

Women don’t need a code of conduct. They need for the police to apprehend the criminals who did this.

Critics of Merkel’s open-door policy on refugees were quick to blame it for the attacks, despite the police’s insistence that the alleged perpetrators were not new arrivals and many of them have been known to them for some time. Anti-Islam, anti-immigrant and anti-refugee groups, most notably the Pegida movement and the far right AfD party were quick to grab on to this incident and use it as ammunition for their own political and ideological agendas and to bolster their positions.

Many people have accused the media of deliberately underreporting the incident due to the ethnic background of the criminals, with many pointing to the fact that it took days before the details of the story reached national attention. In fact, police say the full extent of the attacks only became clear in the following days as increasing numbers of victims began to come forward.

With the BBC News, the Guardian, the Washington Post, the CBC, the New York Times, and pretty all international media reporting on it, I don’t see accusations of media cover-ups as valid.

I suspect that those with an anti-Islam agenda really mean by “cover-up” that no one is writing headlines screaming “Muslim Refugees Did It!” followed by a horrified emoji for additional effect. The media is being prudent in not treating the ethnic origin as the focal point of the story, because they know it will lead to a very predictable and unfortunate backlash against all refugees, who will be found guilty by association.

At the end of the day, this assault was criminal, it must be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and I know of no one saying otherwise. As German Justice Minister Heiko Maas clearly stated, “It doesn’t matter where someone comes from, it matters what they did and that we can prove it.”

This notion that pro-immigrant and pro-refugee advocates are bending over backwards to protect their invested ideology or that media lack the moral and intellectual clarity to observe a crime and label it as such because of its obsession with cultural relativism is both absurd and insulting. There is a huge difference between responsible media prudence and irresponsible media self-censorship. Germany has taken in over a million migrants. Reading about sexual assaults that involved 500 to 1,000 men of Arab or North African origin and only choosing to focus on the latter part of that sentence makes you not only biased, but conveniently blind to all the sexual assaults that happen repeatedly in the Western world when no “foreigners” are anywhere to be found.

Are there cultural differences in how women are perceived and treated in other non-Western countries, and will those differences affect the treatment and safety of women here? It’s a question worth asking. We can’t afford to tiptoe around the issue of sexual violence perpetrated by migrants who come from sexually segregated societies and as a result leave women exposed to danger. If there’s a problem it needs to be addressed head on.

But if you have never been interested in the plight of women or the incredibly high number of sexual assaults and violence that take place on a daily basis against us, but all of a sudden are outraged and inquiring on social media as to why more people aren’t talking about this specific incident, allow me to question your motives.

Women’s safety is paramount, and I resent some using this incident as an excuse to justify their prejudices, their racism, and their Islamophobia.

No one is interested in coddling criminals or turning a blind eye to sexual assault. No one is interested in victim blaming. Perpetrators (regardless of their ethnic or religious background) should be apprehended and face the legal ramifications of their actions. But I’ll be damned if we allow anti-immigrant pseudo-feminists who seem perfectly unalarmed by the Western world’s one in five rape rate to hijack the conversation.

Editors' note: Ricochet columnist Toula Drimonis has been named one of four finalists for the 2015 Notable award in journalism. If you like her writing and want to support her, you can vote for her to win the award at this link. Just select Quebec as the region and vote, simple as that!

You might also be interested in...
Fight for 15
B.C. needs a brisk boost to $15/hr minimum wage
Michal Rozworski
December 7, 2017
Justice and equality
Canada must end discrimination against immigrants living with HIV
December 21, 2017