When considering the recent happenings in Cologne, Germany (and similar cases in other cities), one could almost sarcastically talk about a textbook fulfillment of the predictions that right-wing fueled minds made about inviting refugees from different cultures into the country. That’s why it was so hard for me to believe these were actually asylum-seekers who gathered there in Cologne, and with every additional piece of information released it becomes more and more difficult to maintain an open mind, refuse to generalize, and regard the crimes objectively.
To recap: In the last night of the year, when usually people meet on the streets to celebrate the end of one and the beginning of another era together, with fireworks, friends, and sparkling wine, a mob of at least 1,000 people gathered around the Cathedral and Main Station in Cologne. Out of this mob, hundreds of men who are currently in Germany for seeking asylum, mainly from Syria, formed groups of 3 to 20 men and attacked women in a way that is known from Arab countries as “taharrush gamea”: groups of men gang up, circle a woman and collectively sexually harass her. Additionally, the mob kept the under-represented police busy by throwing fireworks into the crowd. Similar cases are now slowly revealed by Swedish news from Stockholm, other cities in Germany. In Finland, there were reports of “widespread harassment” during the New Year’s celebrations at the Senate Square in Helsinki.
While getting information only piece by piece thanks to the authorities covering up, the media exaggerating and spreading false news and generally everyone drawing their own conclusions, I tried to remain reasonable and fair. Why would especially those, who escaped from a war in their own country and should presumably firstly be glad to be alive, and secondly very much care about how to prolong their stay in a safe environment by sticking to the rules and norms, screw it all and go all berserk?
[alert type=red ]Why would especially those, who escaped from a war in their own country and should presumably firstly be glad to be alive, and secondly very much care about how to prolong their stay in a safe environment by sticking to the rules and norms, screw it all and go all berserk?[/alert]
Well, aside from asking (probably to no avail) for the reasoning, there is one thing we have to keep in mind: Having wrong expectations always hurts. We can never expect anyone to act in a certain way. We can at no time expect anyone to behave according to our wishes just out of gratefulness. People do whatever they want – and some people are ungrateful. Some people have no moral. Some people feed on others fear and empower themselves through scaring the shit out of the weaker ones. Those people are cowards, to certain extents disgusting, and, depending on how they execute their fear-feeding, criminals. But what we have to keep in mind additionally, even though it becomes more and more difficult when reading related articles to (only the counted!) numerous rapes in refugee homes and the comparison to the Tahrir-square incidents from 2011, is: These characteristics do not originate in the people’s cultures. These are their own choices.
Some people claim every guy from “these countries” to be a rapist by default. One could claim the equally blunt assumption that every man turns into a rapist when bored, grouped together with equally bored peers, and feeling that there is no real punishment to it. Think of it like this: if someone comes from a country where speeding is fined with high fees and other punishments, (s)he is more likely to speed in a country other than their own, where the expected punishment is much lower. Furthermore, the power of group dynamics is something that cannot be forgotten: when in a group, people act more reckless, are more encouraged to do stupid things than alone because the chances of getting caught are much lower.
[alert type=red ]Some people claim every guy from “these countries” to be a rapist by default.[/alert]
Still – it takes an incredible amount of immoral to gather in groups and scare women. Harass them. Sexually assault them. This is a step not everyone would take even given the fact that they feel less threatened by the judicial system or more encouraged in a group. This is a step only major assholes would take. Pardon my language, but these things make me just incredibly angry – rape seems to be the omnipresent weapon that is used in every possible situation to scare people. Terror, war – it is always accompanied by rape. This is not because the attackers enjoy the sexual side of it, this is merely about power. Degrading someone. Disrespecting them. And that is a thing that is present in every culture and every country, whether we want to admit it or not. Women always have been and still seem to be, even in Western cultures, humans of lower quality. The weak ones. The ones to blame.
So while outraged civilians already sharpen their knives and share hateful memes about how Arabic looking men rape blonde women on the altar of multiculturalism, I as a woman wonder if this could have happened without having a refugee wave coming over Europe, and why it actually hasn’t yet. Because this has nothing to do with culture. Men disrespect women everywhere, even in our closest circles of friends. Sure, so far we have not had incidents to the extent of hundreds of men grouping and ganging up and attacking women at the same time – but we do have that in smaller circles. Gang rapes are not an unknown thing in Europe, either – and a girl that has never been touched unwanted, and sexually assaulted, exists only in fairytales. Sadly enough. That things go out of hand when alcohol and groups are involved is documented yearly by the many, many complaints in fraternities at American colleges, just to name one example.
[alert type=red ]Gang rapes are not an unknown thing in Europe, either – and a girl that has never been touched unwanted, and sexually assaulted, exists only in fairytales. [/alert]
I am not trying to diminish what happened in Cologne, Hamburg and other places. I am not trying to conceal that the people involved in this probably came with a wave of other people who have not been here before. But just like we do not generalize with locals when one goes nuts, we cannot generalize with immigrants when some of them misbehave. “Not letting anyone in” would be just a solution to one of the many problems we have (and not a very sustainable one) – when do we finally wake up and do something about all of them? What about the daily disrespect women experience among their colleagues, acquaintances, and superiors?
Being a victim sucks. Everyone, who has ever been in a situation not being able to stop another person from doing something unwanted, knows that this feeling of helplessness, of powerlessness is just as bad as anything the attackers are doing. While Germany plays the blame game and just recently forced their police president to retire as an answer to the impotence of the authorities to what was unexpectedly coming that New Year’s night, we should be rather thinking about what to do next. How to prevent something like this from happening again. Wearing chastity belts or only going out with your 200 closest friends are obviously no options, though some officials seem to consider them as such.
The bottom line of this is: There is no easily applicable solution as to “just not letting anyone strange in” anymore. Where there are many people, there are also a couple of that do wrong. If you let many new ones in, you also let new kinds of wrong in, sure – but morally flawed locals would always come up with new ways of terror anyways, even if we barricaded our borders.
The attacks in Cologne and other cities are merely this, by the way – terror. They destabilize the community, shatter people’s beliefs. More people will generalize, this will lead to a more right-thinking society. Through that, more foreigners will suffer, regardless of their behavior – it will be enough that they look foreign. And through all the hatred and antagonism, one group will benefit the most: terrorists. Not only because their main aim is to create fear and confusion, but also because it will be way easier for them to recruit bitter and desperate people than happy and confident ones. Therefore, it is most important to remain reasonable even in a situation like this, now. Make an example of the ones that don’t stick to the rules and punish them with eviction, and remain friendly towards the huge majority of refugees that has not done anything wrong.
And, maybe, it is just not a good idea to cram 200 bored guys in their mid-twenties, with nothing to do and no perspective, in a home for 20 people together for months and wait what happens. But that is just a side note.
Cover picture by Paul Townsed.