German leaders have expressed shock over dozens of apparently coordinated sexual assaults against women on New Year’s Eve in the western city of Cologne blamed on men of “of Arab or North African appearance”. These incidents have fueled a political firestorm over immigration in Germany.
The Cologne assaults happened near the city’s iconic cathedral, a traditional gathering spot to see in the New Year, and according to media reports they were serious in nature.
Police have received 90 criminal complaints, around a quarter of them for sexual assault or groping, including one case of rape.
Police said victims described the perpetrators as gangs of Arab or North African men.
Describing her ordeal, one of the Cologne victims said she was too scared to go out alone following the incident.
“The men surrounded us and started to grab our behinds,” she said.
Another victim said she had ran to the police, but it were understaffed.
The northern port city of Hamburg also reported around 10 similar attacks.
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas called this an an entirely new dimension of organized crime.
Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel expressed her “outrage” over the violence, and called for a thorough investigation of the attacks. She said it require “a tough response from the state”.
The New Year’s Eve reports have sparked a fierce outcry in Germany, with protesters gathering at the site of the alleged attacks.
People took to the social media to vent out their anger:
— Jenan Moussa (@jenanmoussa) January 5, 2016
In 2016 it may not be possible to rationally critique a culture without being labeled a racist/bigot #Cologne
— Clyde Rathbone (@ClydeRathbone) January 6, 2016
Rich that Merkel outraged about the #Cologne attacks. She brought the attackers to Germany in the first place.
— Atheist-Kafir (@muayfarang555) January 6, 2016
— David Vance (@DVATW) January 6, 2016
— Alexis In NH (@AlexisinNH) January 6, 2016
We don’t live in a rape culture, rapists go to prison… unless you’re raped by the wrong nationality. #Cologne
— Lauren Southern (@Lauren_Southern) January 6, 2016
— Paul Joseph Watson (@PrisonPlanet) January 5, 2016
— David Vance (@DVATW) January 5, 2016
— Liar MPs (@LiarMPs) January 5, 2016
GERMAN WOMEN, KNOW YOUR PLACE. From now on you must only travel in groups, keep others at safe distance, not be too cheerful. #Cologne
— sean thomas knox (@thomasknox) January 5, 2016
— Rachel Joyce (@racheljoyce) January 5, 2016
Germany took in around one million asylum seekers in 2015, many of them fleeing war-ravaged Syria.
Following a crisis meeting with the city’s police, Henriette Reker, Cologne’s mayor, said the perpetrators would be brought to justice. She said the attacks were “monstrous” and the authorities can’t allow this to become a lawless area.
One MP from Angela Merkel’s party called for the numbers of refugees in the country to be reduced in the light of the attacks.
“It can’t go on like this,” Steffen Bilger wrote on Twitter. “Urgently needed: reduction of influx, secure borders, intensifying of deportations and meaningful justice. #Cologne.”
Another German politician described this just the tip of the iceberg. They are also concerned about what will happen when Cologne will stage carnival events in February, with hundreds of thousands of revellers expected in the streets.
Mayor Reker said her office in cooperation with the police will come out with a book of rules on how to behave during Carnival.
The suggested code of conduct includes maintaining an arm’s length distance from strangers, to stick within your own group, or to inform the police.
She also said that asylum seekers needed to be taught more about the meaning of the annual carnivals.
The state government of North Rhine-Westphalia, home to Cologne, vowed to take action.