Rapes in Cologne : The Silence of the left.
Cologne, Stuttgart, Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfort, München, Vienna, Salzburg, Zurich, Helsinki…
During the last week, associations, Left wing, feminist and antiracist personalities have rallied against the state of emergency in France and the deprivation of nationalty for bi-national terrorists. These are legitimate struggles, we don’t share them necessarily but we respect them enormously.
By contrast, when one looks at the reports by journalists and by the police providing more and more details on the tsunami of sexual violence unleashed on hundreds of women in Europe on New Year’s Eve, we are still waiting for these associations and personalities to denounce firmly and unanimously these violences.
Hundreds of women have been assaulted sexually during New Year’s night in Germany. These agressions may have been organised, according to what the German minister of Justice, Heiko Maas said on the TV channel ZDF on wednesday. « The whole thing seems to have been coordinated », he added.
The stories told by th victims are terrifying.
On the night of December 31st, mass sexual assaults took place in the crowds gathered in front of the central railway station and on the forecourt of the cathedral to admire the fireworks. According to the first witnesses, about a thousand men « who, based on their physical appearance, could be coming from Arab or North African countries », ganged up on dozens of women to assault them. As related by the daily Süddeutsche Zeitung, they took advantage of the hustle to steal their smartphones, their wallets and other objects of value.
The number of complaints filed in Cologne following these sexual agressions has now climbed to more than 500, and these figures keep growing. According to the declarations of the local police, the suspects are mainly « asylum seekers », or « illegal immigrants ». Out of the total number of complaints , about 40% have been filed for sexual assault, the police added. Until now, the figures quoted were only 170.
« The individuals targeted for investigation by the police originate mostly in North African countries. Most of them are asylum seekers and people who are in Germany illegally », explain the police in Cologne. However, they indicate that « the investigations launched to determine if and to what extent these people are linked to the misdemeanors committed during New Year’s Eve are still going on ».
The Federal police has identified 32 suspects, 22 of which are asylum seekers, as specified by the Ministry of the Interior updating former figures on Friday evening. The police of Cologne, including about 100 investigators, is working hard to view about 350 hours of video. A spokesman for the local police underlined that, in some cases, the phones of the suspects can be traced to reception centers for asylum seekers or their immediate vicinity.
Some investigators see the hand of the Moroccan mafia in these atttacks.
In response to these events, the mayor of Cologne, Henriette Reker, has exhorted the female inhabitants of the city to « adapt to these kinds of behavior » in order to facilitate the refugees’ integration.
Another piece of advice given by the mayor is to stay « at arm length » from anybody, to never walk alone and to ask the passerbys for help in case of need. All this is part of a « code of conduct » that women will have to adopt henceforth.
If Cologne has been the first city to be hit by this explosion of sexist and sexual violence, other cities have been targeted as well : Hamburg (50 complaints have been filed) and Stuttgart , and German newspapers have now added to this list the cities of Berlin, Düsseldorf, Frankfort, München but also Vienna and Salzburg in Austria and Zurich in Switzerland.
In Helsinki (Finland), an unusual level of sexual harassment has been observed during New Years ‘ Eve’s night. Three cases of sexual assault have been reported (two of which have resulted in complaints) in the biggest railway station in Helsinki where about a thousand asylum seekers had gathered, most of them Iraqis, according to a press release by the police. The main suspects, three asylum seekers, have been arrested (note 1).
We know now that female refugees are victims of rape and sexual assault in great numbers, but this dire situation is met by total indifference by the media (Note 2) . When we denounce these violences, and that some NGOs are telling us that « it’s not the problem » (Note 3), we have to wonder : how did these rapists become untouchable, not just in the eyes of society but of progressive associations as well?
Since these violences took place, each time we tried to speak up about them, the Left asked us to shut up or to « be careful », in order not to « play into the hands of… » Same reaction from public authorities : denial and minimization. This tells victims the world over that they are not the good victims, that the agressors have alleviating circumstances and that they must grin and bear it. What would have been their reaction if these women had been raped by gangs of skinheads ?
This double standard regarding these denounciations is unbearable and despicable . Our task as feminists is to have the back of all the women who are victims of male violence, regardless of who the perpetrators are– even if it’s men we are supposed to support.
We are aware that these attacks will be « recuperated ». But neither the female refugees nor European women have to put up with rape and our indifference because we are afraid to be accused of racism by racists. The pestilence of fascism grows in our silence. What plays into the hand of the extreme right is denial and lies, what stirs up people’s indignation and distrust is not telling the truth, silencing the victims and minimizing the violence inflicted on them—this is what boosts extreme political views. If we stay silent, we give the extreme right the power to make its lie believable : that they are the only ones concerned with the safety and the bodily integrity of women.
To this endless impugning of our motives, we answer that what happened in Cologne and elsewhere, is that, as always, victims were told they are not victims and their agressors are not guilty ; and if we let women speak up and we listen to them, we are going to cater to a political agenda. When we denounce Bertrand Cantat (pop star who beat up his girlfriend to death), we are playing into the hands of the Right, when we unmask Tron (politician who sexually assaulted his female employees), we are playing into the hands of the Left, when we tell the truth about Dominique Strauss-Kahn, we are playing into the hands of the antisemites, when we speak up about the violences perpetraded by men who are themselves victims of racism, we are playing into the hands of the extreme right.
The long and short of this is that women are forever pawns in men’s games, what is clear is that on this night in Cologne and elsewhere, women have been assaulted, wounded and traumatized, but the only thing that matters or stirs up any emotional response is the games played by men.
In Cologne and elsewhere, victims have been manhandled, mistreated and told to keep quiet because the interests of some have priority on others’.
One thing is for sure : male domination is more than 5 000 year old but it’s still alive and kicking, and men’s violence still goes unpunished.
Christelle Di Pietro
Christine Le Doaré
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