A man kissing a young blonde during the New Year’s celebration at the Senate Square in Helsinki on January 1 2016. Picture: Tony Öhberg for Finland Today

In the midst of a pounding beat by a DJ, a dark-haired man grabbed the head of a young blonde girl jumping next to him at the Senate Square in Helsinki on the New Year’s Eve. He twisted her head and gave a long kiss. On the mouth, in French style. The men surrounding them smiled and cheered. A little jumping and waving, and the man grabbed her head again. The lady appeared somewhat reluctant. Another kiss.

Well, that will surely help her keep warm in this cold breeze and -10 degrees Celsius, I thought . . .

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To me, it looked like a couple celebrating the turning of the year. Beautiful. Romantic. I photographed them.

Afterwards, thinking about the incident has made me somewhat sick.


Ilkka Koskimäki, deputy chief of Helsinki police.

According to the police, three Iraqi asylum seekers have been arrested for committing sexual assaults during the New Year’s celebrations at the Senate Square, which was attended by well over 20,000 people. In addition, the police said that the security personnel have reported of a “widespread sexual harassment” during the celebrations. Several women have complained that asylum seekers groped their breasts and kissed them without permission.

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Ville Ketonen, the chief of security from Local Crew in charge of the safety while ringing in the New Year, said in an interview for Helsingin Sanomat that the refugee seekers stood in a group of 30 to 50 in front of the stage at the Senate Square and acted “restlessly”. “There was some minor pushing and running of mouth, but nothing that would have given a reason to remove them from the place,” he said.

According to Ketonen, two or three teenaged girls, who had been in front of the stage, stayed at the square after the celebrations and they looked “pale and shocked.” “They had apparently been harassed, hands had been pushed between the legs and breasts.”

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Of course, I cannot be absolutely sure if the incident I witnessed is related to the cases tied to sexual harassment, but I didn’t witness anything similar in front of the stage during my stay for about an hour after midnight.

According to Ilkka Koskimäki, the deputy chief of police in Helsinki, in an interview for the Telegraph on Friday, “this phenomenon is new in Finnish sexual crime history.” “We have never before had this kind of sexual harassment happening at New Year’s Eve.”

Koskimäki added that “sexual assaults in parks and on the streets had been unknown in Finland before a record 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in 2015, making the 14 cases last year ‘big news in the city’.”

[alert type=blue ]Koskimäki added that “sexual assaults in parks and on the streets had been unknown in Finland before a record 32,000 asylum seekers arrived in 2015, making the 14 cases last year ‘big news in the city’.”[/alert]

Koskimäki’s comments stirred the social media. Many women shared their stories of harassment, occurring weekly, if not daily. A campaign with a hashtag #lääppijä (feel up) is gaining popularity.

“Sexual harassment has always been a reality to the women of this country,” Emma Kari, a member of the parliament in the Greens party, said on Facebook. “Sexual harassment occurs everywhere in Finland, in the social media, in schools, streets and at the working places. According to a study conducted by the parliament a couple of years ago, as much as a third of the women working in the parliament have experienced sexual harassment at their work place.”

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Kari said that it’s wrong that the molestation and abuse on women worries only when the offender is a foreigner.

“That’s when the goal is neither to protect women nor to improve their status.”