Friday 26 May 2017

'When drunk, they get angry and want to show women who's in charge'

Police use pepper spray against supporters of anti-immigration right-wing movement Pegida during a demonstration march on Saturday, in reaction to mass assaults on women on New Year's Eve, in Cologne, Germany Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Police use pepper spray against supporters of anti-immigration right-wing movement Pegida during a demonstration march on Saturday, in reaction to mass assaults on women on New Year's Eve, in Cologne, Germany Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay
Pegida members carry various versions of the Imperial War Flag during Saturday's protest Photo: REUTERS/Wolfgang Rattay

Shona Murray

'All these people are coming from a culture that is dominated by men," says Harald Radewahan (60) of the mass sexual assaults, many of which are suspected to have been carried out by migrant men in Cologne on New Year's Eve. "Women are for household chores and cooking, where they come from, yet the women here don't find them attractive; they reject them because they have no prospects, and they don't like it."

"Normally, they don't drink, but when they do, their anger comes out, and they want to show the women that they're in charge", says Radewahan, a native of Cologne.

The city of Cologne, with a population of one million, is at the centre of confrontations between some of Germany's new Arab immigrant population and far-right anti-Islam and anti-immigration groups such as Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident).

This mass sexual violence incident has escalated already existing tensions, as has the mishandling of the attacks by the police, leading to the resignation of Cologne's police chief on Friday. Exacerbating the situation further was comments from Mayor of Cologne Henriette Reker, who advised women to keep at "an arm's length" from strangers; another clanger by the authorities that has drawn ire and ridicule in equal measure. It is feared this apparent bungling of the situation, compounded by concerns over Chancellor Merkel's open-door policy for fleeing Syrians and Iraqis, may see a rise in support for groups like Pegida.

Yesterday, a counter-demonstration at Cologne's Gothic cathedral formed in response to police clashes with around 1,000 Pegida supporters on Saturday. Police fired water cannon to disperse the crowd; many of whom waved German flags and chanted the word "expulsion", also using the term "rape-fugee" in order to denigrate Germany's new 1.1 million refugee population.

Feminists and anti-sexual violence activists showed up to demand an end to sexual violence, but also criticised far-right groups who they say are manipulating December 31's aggressions as a means of ostracising refugees and forcing an end to Germany's generous immigration policies. "I'm angry about two things: about violent sexual assaults and about how the right-wing is trying to use this as proof that all refugees are criminals," says Manja (36) from Cologne.

Hamburg and Frankfurt also recorded complaints of a similar nature, but far fewer in number. A soft but distinct police presence emerged at the counter-rally, as local officers say they envisage a continuation of clashes.

"We were expecting another demonstration today, this time from 'Hogesa'," - another far-right, anti-Islam street movement with links to the English Defence League, a police officer tells the Irish Independent.

A crowd of around 100, mainly women, was joined by about 25 Syrian refugees wishing to impart their disapproval of any sexual violence. They stood with the crowd waving Syrian flags. "No-one can accept what happened here in Cologne - it's a big mistake for us refugees", said Abu Mohammad from Raqqa in Syria. "It was a coordinated attack; and I think supporters of the Syrian regime are behind it; the regime wants to make a problem in Europe for refugees, so that they will be kicked out. I'm worried about everything now; people in Germany are helping refugees and now I'm worried they will hate us because of this."

Irish Independent

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