One wonders whether the events in Cologne on the last evening of 2015 would have seen the light of day around the world had they not been reported on independent socio-political websites.

Although a Cologne newspaper and German media outlets covered the evening to some degree at the New Year, elsewhere, it took until January 4 or 5 for the story to emerge in mainstream media.

What happened?

The BBC’s coverage is dated January 5. It provides a good overview of what happened, although it does not explain why German men were unable to fight back or defend their women. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

The scale of the attacks on women at the city’s central railway station has shocked Germany. About 1,000 drunk and aggressive young men were involved.

City police chief Wolfgang Albers called it “a completely new dimension of crime”. The men were of Arab or North African appearance, he said.

Women were also targeted in Hamburg.

But the Cologne assaults – near the city’s iconic cathedral – were the most serious, German media report. At least one woman was raped, and many were groped.

Most of the crimes reported to police were robberies. A volunteer policewoman was among those sexually molested.

The page has a video where:

One woman described how a firecracker put in her hood has left her scarred for life.

Also:

One man described how his partner and 15-year-old daughter were surrounded by an enormous crowd outside the station and he was unable to help. “The attackers grabbed her and my partner’s breasts and groped them between their legs.”

A British woman visiting Cologne said fireworks had been thrown at her group by men who spoke neither German nor English. “They were trying to hug us, kiss us. One man stole my friend’s bag,” she told the BBC. “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.”

What the report leaves out about the man unable to help is that some of these men were also set upon by groups of men who assaulted and robbed them.

To date, according to The Guardian, 838 people have filed criminal complaints. These include 497 of these being from women alleging sexual assault, however, some women jointly filed a complaint. This means that, in total:

the number of alleged crimes stands at 766, of which 381 are sexual offences, including three rapes.

As of January 18, only 21 suspects have been arrested. These include three Algerian asylum seekers. One of them is charged with sexual assault and the other two with robbery. Eighteen other people have been accused of committing crime on New Year’s Eve. Eight of them are currently in custody.

On Monday, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) agreed to declare Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia safe countries. This means that anyone from there would be very unlikely to be able to claim asylum. Finally.

More on the story

Russia Today has a very good 27-minute report on what took place in Cologne:

The British reporter interviewed a local bouncer — a martial arts champion — who was on duty at a 5-star hotel in the same square as the cathedral and the railway station. He figured it would be a quiet but festive night, as only people aged 40 and over could afford to spend a few hundred euros to attend the New Year’s Eve event at the hotel.

He tells the interviewer (approximately 2:00 into the video) that between 9 and 10 p.m., a stabbing took place in the square. Police and ambulances rushed to the scene. From that point, he said that things ‘escalated’ (subtitles from the video, caps below in the original):

these people that we welcomed just 3 months ago, with teddy bears and water bottles on the Munich main railway station, they started shooting at the dome [Cologne Cathedral], started shooting at the police, which then had to come equipped with helmets onto the dome platform, to brake that potential for violence.

Well, seasoned police officers then confessed to me, that they never saw [any]thing like this in their entire life. They called it quote ‘A CIVIL WAR LIKE SITUATION’.

He deplores the lack of thorough press coverage of the evening, especially as:

again and again female persons came to me and asked if they could just stand next to me, so I could look after them — still didn’t quite know what that was all about — and said, ‘We are being chased by these and [those] guys. Well, these guys that chased them, then really tried to attack me. I beat ’em all up, I have to tell you honestly … [B]ecause I never witnessed [any]thing like this, I always thought this stuff was some ‘right wing propaganda’ but this was all REAL.

Later that evening, more rampages happened. They beat the sh*t out of the head from a guy that was lying on the ground, they then jumped on his head, riot police came on site and we also started to react.

After that, the bouncer says, things were quieter for the next 90 minutes. The suspects were rounded up but, as all police transport vehicles were occupied, none came to take the men away. And, even if they had, Cologne’s jail cells were already full. As a result, police had to release these men they had arrested and detained. They, in turn, began yelling obscenities at the police and spat on the windscreens of the police cars. There was nothing the police could do in those circumstances.

The bouncer went on to say:

I never witnessed anything like this before and I’m sure it will escalate furtherby Carnival [pre-Lenten celebrations] at the latest in Cologne … It will really explode here!

And I hope, well, you do know that I’m no right wing person or something along those lines … I always stayed out of that stuff … No, folks, this was REAL!

They attacked the hotel guests, they sp[a]t at the hotel guests, they sp[a]t at the police

A number of assailants carried a small piece of paper with a list of several obscenities in German with Arabic translations. You can still see a large version of it here on a German media site.

Elsewhere in Germany

The Telegraph has a list of other German cities — and towns — where similar events took place that same night. Sexual or indecent assault was the common denominator in all cases. Near the town of Weil am Rhein on the Swiss-German border, two girls aged 14 and 15 were held captive for several hours and allegedly gang raped by a 21-year old man and two 14-year-old boys.

In the days that followed

The Telegraph reported that Bild and Der Spiegel leaked police reports of interviews with the unrepentant suspects allegedly saying there was nothing police could do to them:

… one of those involved told officers: “I am Syrian. You have to treat me kindly. Mrs Merkel invited me.”

Another tore up his residence permit before the eyes of police, and told them: “You can’t do anything to me, I can get a new one tomorrow.”

On January 8, Wolfgang Albers was removed as Cologne’s police chief. He is currently suspended from duty. The Telegraph told us:

Wolfang Albers was told he was being suspended from duty as allegations continue to mount of a police cover-up of asylum-seekers’ involvement in the attacks.

Ralf Jäger,the interior minister of North Rhine-Westphalia state, said his decision to suspend Mr Albers was “necessary to regain the public’s trust”.

“The Cologne police now have the vital task of investigating the events of New Year’s Eve. People rightly want to know what happened, who the perpetrators were and how such incidents can be prevents in the future,” Mr Jäger said.

The new mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, about whom I wrote in October 2015, was equally reprehensible in insinuating that the assaults were the fault of the women victims.

I’ll get to that in a moment.

However, prior to her election last October, she had been the head of Cologne’s social integration department for five years. Just days before the mayoral elections, a 44-year-old German said to have been opposed to further immigration stabbed her in the neck. He also lightly injured three other people with her at the time.

After New Year’s Eve, Reker advised women to adopt a new ‘code of conduct’ to keep themselves safe. This also involved ‘keeping men at arm’s length’. The Telegraph‘s Alison Pearson unpacks this for us:

It soon became impossible to ignore the gravity of what had happened. Even then, the authorities’ default position was denial. On Tuesday, Henriette Reker, the Mayor of Cologne, made a statement which I sincerely hope will haunt her till her dying day. Asked how women were supposed to cope with this menace, the mayor proposed a new “code of conduct” for young women and girls “so that such things do not happen to them”. In particular, she suggested that women maintain an arm’s length from strangers. This caused a storm of sarcasm on Twitter where the German for arm’s length – #einearmlange – was soon trending. The idea that a woman ambushed by a Moroccan gang should inform them, politely and Germanically, that she was staying at arm’s length to avoid sexual harassment would have been a joke, had the threat not been so real and frightening. Meanwhile, reports of similar attacks were coming in from Hamburg, Dusseldorf and Stuttgart.

She concludes:

if anyone needs a “code of conduct” it is not German women, but men from conservative societies who must learn sharpish what our values entail, or return from whence they came.

I hope that I am wrong, but I fear that the grotesque mass attack on women in Cologne was not an isolated incident, but the first of many battles in a clash of civilisations.

Taharrush gamea

A new term entered Western vocabulary which explains what happened on New Year’s Eve not only in Germany but also in a few other European countries, including Finland.

This Arabic term is taharrush gamea, or taharrush jamaʿi, which, is, as Wikipedia explains:

a type of sexual harassment and sexual assault of women by groups of men on the street that may involve rape, beating and name-calling, groping, sexual invitations[1] and robbery. The assault usually happens under the protective cover provided by large gatherings or crowds,[2][3] typically mass events, including protests, rallies, concerts, and public festivals.[4]

American reporter Lara Logan was the unfortunate victim of taharrush gamea in Egypt during Arab Spring. Whilst such brutality shocked Westerners, to a segment of Egyptian men, it was perfectly normal. In fact, Eid — a holy but joyful religious day for Muslims — is also a time for sexual assaults in Egypt, namely in 2006.

Wikipedia goes on to say:

Early on Egyptian security forces were blamed for using sexual harassment on female activists and participants of public demonstrations and rallies. The behavior then spread and was used by crowds of young men to harass women in public spaces. According to Farhana Mayer, senior researcher at the Quilliam Foundation, theology department, Taharrush is a symptom of misogynous ideology in which women are punished for being in public.[6]

What now?

Since the Paris attacks in November, those who were previously more or less indifferent to migrants — the vast majority of whom are young, healthy men — are now beginning to examine the situation more closely.

The events in Cologne have only added to this. Spiegel Online has an excellent analysis in English.

An article in The Week explains that several things could happen in 2016 that would see the European immigration ideal turned on its head. Hungary and Poland have moved towards more conservative politics, and Slovakian politicians have said that recent migrants are unlikely to be integrated into broader society.

Elsewhere, questions are now being asked about the wisdom of Angela Merkel’s policies.

In the UK, we should be having a referendum on our membership of the EU this year.

May wise leadership — and voting — prevail.

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