The video shows hundreds, maybe a thousand, people in a circle on the square.
Who are all these people? Not possible to see. In the beginning of the video, someone with a Kurdish flag passes.
Is that person Kurdish? Maybe, but not certain. And if that person is Kurdish, does that then say anything about other Kurdish people? No.
The people are there for the German (Christian) New Year. A German (Christian) tradition.
Apparently, quite some of the people in Cologne are drunk. Also a New Year tradition in Western culture; though not all people like it.
There is trouble beteween New Year revellers and police. Also a New Year tradition in many cities, towns and villages in Germany, the Netherlands and other European countries.
Let us presume for the sake of argument that the person with the Kurdish flag in the video is Kurdish. Then, that person celebrates the German New Year; though there is a strong tradition among Kurds of celebrating their own, different, New Year, Newroz. Newroz is usually celebrated between 18 and 24 March. Presumably, that Kurdish person has integrated into German customs.
Let us presume for the sake of argument that the person with the Kurdish flag, and some others watching the firecrackers, are Muslims. We cannot know whether that is true. But let us presume it for a moment. Muslims have their own Islamic New Year. The Islamic new year does not come on the same day of the Gregorian calendar every year. However, these Muslims in Cologne (if it is true that some of the people around the fireworks were Muslims) had not come to celebrate the Islamic New Year, but the German (Christian) New Year. Presumably, these Muslims had integrated into German customs.
Some of the people on the square were drunk. Making it highly improbable they were devout Muslims.
The video at the top of this blog post was also posted on Dutch site The Post Online. On 4 January 2016, four days after New Year’s Eve. Their caption with the video was (translated): ‘Drunk young people and fireworks’. So, an example of ‘west European culture’.
The Post Online is a right-wing site, with a tendency to blame Muslims and/or immigrants and/or refugees and/or ‘foreigners’ for all crimes and troubles in the world. However, they did not do that in their caption with this video.
Then, beginning on that 4 January, establishment media and the political far right suddenly changed their tune on what happened that New Year’s Eve in Cologne. Women had gone to police telling about pickpockets, sexual harassment and a few cases of rape.
Unfortunately, pickpockets, sexual harassment and in some terrible cases even rape are parts of the New Year’s Eve tradition in Germany and other western countries among the more criminal and sexist men among revellers. Also at other holidays: in November 2015, men at an Oktoberfest celebration in Heerhugowaard town in the Netherlands sexually attacked twelve waitresses. The perpetrators were ‘autochtonous’ white men. Not Kurds, not Muslims, not Moroccans, not refugees; etc. etc. That news item made it just to local media. Not to Dutch national media. Let alone international media.
Sexual assault, rape and other crimes are always done by guilty individuals. Not collectively, by ‘guilty religions’ or by ‘guilty ethnicities’. No one has blamed all white men of Heerhugowaard for the sexual abuse. No one has blamed all white men in the Netherlands. No one has blamed all white men in all countries of the world. And correctly so.
Why, then, are both corporate media and right-wing politicians, not only in Germany, but also far beyond the borders of Germany, now full of blaming ‘refugees’/’Moroccans’/’Arabs’/Muslims/’foreigners’ etc. for the crimes in Cologne?
What do we really know about the perpetrators of the crimes in Cologne?
How many people have been convicted after fair trials for these crimes? Zero.
How many people have confessed these crimes to police? Zero.
How many people have been arrested for these crimes? Two. A 16-year-old from Tunisia and a 23-year-old from Morocco. Meanwhile, police have freed these two, as there was no proof against them.
There were people from many nations on New Year’s Eve in Cologne. In the Netherlands, tourism businesses in December 2015 advertised: Dutch tourists, come with us for a bus trip or train trip to Cologne, as New Year’s Eve is special there. Advertisements especially mentioned the fireworks on the square.
As Cologne is not far from Belgium and France either, very probably there were Belgian, French and other tourists present as well.
Were any Dutch, Belgian, French, etc. men involved in the crimes in Cologne? We just don’t know. Like the overwhelming majority of facts is still unknown.
Cologne police say they suspect 31 people of crime. Of theft; not of sexual harassment or of rape. These suspects are very mixed in nationality: German, United States American, Serbian, North African, Iranian, Iraqi, and four Syrians. For all these cases, we don’t know yet whether the police suspicion is correct or wrong.
If these crimes would have happened in 1999, during the NATO war against Yugoslavia, then I suspect that the corporate media and political right-wingers would have concentrated very much on Serbian suspects. Then, there was much anti-Serbian xenophobia in support of war propaganda. When a young girl, Marianne Vaatstra, was murdered in Friesland province in the Netherlands, xenophobes blamed a refugee from Yugoslavia for that without any proof. Years later, a ‘native’ Dutch farmer confessed he had murdered the girl, and was convicted.
An anonymous policeman claimed to German right-wing daily Welt am Sonntag that ‘the majority’ of perpetrators in Cologne were supposedly refugees from the war in Syria. There is a glaring difference between this anonymous cop and the official police figures: ‘the majority’ versus 4 out of 31 suspects of theft, little more than 12%.
And even if we would presume that, indeed, most people rightly or wrongly suspected of theft, would be Syrian refugees; so, not 4 out of 31, but, say 16 out of 31: what would that say about all those Syrian refugees in Cologne who did not commit these crimes? Nothing. About all those Syrian refugees elsewhere in Germany who did not commit these crimes? Nothing. About all Syrian refugees in the Netherlands? Nothing again.
So, our conclusion is: we know so far next to nothing to completely nothing.
But nevertheless, xenophobic prejudiced people already claim to know everything: ‘Refugees are criminals!!!!’ Like prejudiced people always already ‘know’ everything before there has been serious investigation.
How about claims that sexual harassment of women is supposedly a problem if refugees are said to do it, but not really if white Germans do it? That kind of claims remind one of German history in the 1930s and 1940s. Then, nazis and other anti-Semites depicted Jews as sex-obsessed serial sexual harassers and rapists of ‘pure’ white German womanhood.
By Dietmar Henning and Peter Schwarz in Germany:
The assaults in Cologne and the call for a strong state
9 January 2016
With the beginning of the new year, the media and the political establishment have returned to propaganda mode. It is impossible to watch or listen to the news or open a newspaper without confronting demands for more police and surveillance, harsher laws, and the deportation of “criminal foreigners.” Chancellor Angela Merkel has placed herself at the head of the campaign with her call for “clear signals to those who are not willing to comply with our legal system.”
The occasion for this latest propaganda campaign, which has pushed all other topics into the background, is the New Year’s eve incident at Cologne Central Railway Station. Groups of apparently heavily intoxicated men harassed, robbed and sexually assualted numerous women.
Given the massive media attention these events have received, it is noteworthy that eight days later, few concrete details are known.The Cologne police and North Rhine-Westphalian state Interior Ministry are waiting until Monday to comment on them again. But despite the lack of information, it is clear that a calculated campaign is being organised.
Only one thing is thus far certain. Some 1,000 people gathered on the square between the main railway station and the Cologne Cathedral to celebrate the New Year. When some of those present began to set off fireworks in the crowd, the police cleared the square half an hour before midnight, saying they wanted to “prevent mass panic.” Shortly before one o’clock, they once again allowed access to the station.
At this time, a number of women began to file complaints of theft. According to the police, some of them also reported sexual assaults by groups of passers-by. The police dispatched nearly 150 officers to the square, who accompanied some of the threatened women to the railway station. In the station, another 70 federal police officers were present.
The next morning, the police announced that there had been no unusual occurrences. “Despite the unplanned break in the celebrations, the situation was relaxed,” they declared in a press release. In the social media, the attacks in Cologne on New Year’s eve were not raised as an issue, as research by the Süddeutsche Zeitung subsequently showed. Isolated reports of sexual harassment appeared only in the Cologne local press.
On January 2, the police set up an investigation team to look into the incidents. According to the local press, at this time more than 30 women made themselves known to the police and investigators were assuming that there were more than 40 perpetrators.
At first, there was talk of “men of North African appearance.” The police suspected they were dealing with people known to them for months as pickpockets and confidence men who jostle their victims or misdirect them in order to steal from them. Sometimes, sexual harassment and touching are used as a means of deflecting attention.
The Cologne events made national news only after four days, when Mayor Henriette Reker and Chief of Police Wolfgang Albers held a press conference. Since then, they have dominated the headlines.
The number of complaints to the police increased to 121, three quarters of them for sexual harassment, 50 also for theft. In two cases, about which nothing more is currently known, the police are investigating charges of rape. Meanwhile, the police have identified 16 suspects from video recordings. Most of them are not known to the police by name. There have to date been no arrests.
Putting all this meager information together, it appears that the preying of pickpockets, for which the area around Cologne’s main train station is notorious, came together with excessive alcohol consumption and the presence of a large, tightly packed crowd. Some of the women reported having to run a gauntlet while being attacked and groped from several sides.
That is disgusting, but not new in Germany. At major events where there is high alcohol consumption, such as the Oktoberfest in Bavaria, similar excesses often occur, if perhaps not in such a concentrated form.
After the Cologne events began dominating the headlines, several dozen complaints of sexual assault on New Year’s eve were also made to the police in Hamburg and Stuttgart.
The events in Cologne have much to do with the social crisis in major German cities, but absolutely nothing to do with the influx of almost one million refugees over the past year. They overwhelmingly detest violence against women, just like the vast majority of Germans. But this did not prevent politicians and the media from making the Cologne events the starting point for a sweeping smear campaign against refugees combined with a call for more state powers.
Federal Justice Minister Heiko Maas, a member of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), spoke of “a whole new dimension of organized crime.” Without providing any evidence that the events in Cologne had been planned, he told the Berliner Morgenpost, “When thousands of people come together as an uninhibited horde, and that was apparently planned, it is nothing less than a temporary breach of civilization.” The term “breach of civilization” has traditioanlly been used in Germany in connection with the Holocaust.
Christian Social Union (CSU) General Secretary Andreas Scheuer made the sweeping accusation that it was “young migrants” who were responsible for the attacks in Cologne. It is “unacceptable that women are sexually mistreated and robbed at night on the street and in public places in major German cities by young migrants,” he told the Rheinische Post.
North Rhine-Westphalia Interior Minister Ralf Jäger (SPD) expressed himself similarly, declaring in the style of the far-right, anti-immigrant Pegida movement, “We do not accept that groups of North African men organize to humiliate defenseless women with brazen sexual attacks.”
Echoes of the Nazi stereotype of foreign sub-humans who desecrate German women are unmistakable in both statements.
On Twitter, the former family minister, Kristina Schröder of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), said that the “violence-legitimising masculinity norms in Muslim culture,” which had been long “taboo,” had to be confronted.
Although Federal Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière said there should be “no general suspicion shown towards refugees,” he added in the next breath that if North Africans were the perpetrators, this could not be “just ignored.”
The smear campaign against “North Africans,” “Muslim culture” and “young migrants” is inevitably accompanied by a call for more police, tougher laws and the expulsion of refugees. Chancellor Angela Merkel announced that there would be a “harsh answer by the rule of law.” …
As a consequence of the Cologne events, the CDU executive is calling for the implementation of a dragnet, including “random checks,” when there is “significant danger to public safety and order.” The party will adopt such a resolution on Saturday at its conference in Mainz.
The police union has demanded that politicians show “more guts in enforcing existing deportation regulations,” and Justice Minister Maas has given assurances that asylum seekers can be expelled after being sentanced to one year’s imprisonment.
The events in Cologne are the pretext and not the reason for the call for more powers for the state. Key media outlets such as Die Zeit have long called for a “strong state.” This is inextricably linked to the return of Germany to militarism and an aggressive foreign policy. The war operations in Afghanistan, Syria and Mali, together with mounting social inequality, are provoking growing resistance. It is against this that increased state powers are directed.
Despite intensive propaganda, it has not yet proven possible to break down the deep opposition in broad sections of the population to war and the prevalence of popular sympathy for the refugees. Now the issue of violence against women is being exploited in order to achieve this goal.
What the Cologne mass sexual assault tells us about culture – our own: here.
German government party steps up its anti-refugee agitation: here.