If it had been a planned attack — though there is no evidence suggesting that’s the case — it would have been perfect. While the whole of Europe was preparing militarily and psychologically to prevent acts of terrorism, instead crimes of another sort erupted in the streets on New Year’s Eve in Germany — Cologne, Hamburg, Stuttgart — but also in Zurich and Helsinki.
A delinquent mass of men attacked any women they came across, beating them in the streets, wounding them, raping them, robbing them. Many of the men were of Arab or Muslim origin, possibly even asylum seekers, but there were also Western men, drunk, armed with bottles, knives, Molotov cocktails and brute force. The police were caught unaware and did not have the means to intervene. So useless were the authorities that in Hamburg, nightclub bouncers came to the rescue of women, whisking them inside to safety.
It is a very different attack from what happened in Paris, a comparison some in the media have made. Instead of attacking music venues, restaurants or the headquarters of a satirical newspaper — symbols of French secularism — it was the square, a meeting place of women who to them symbolize the enemy for supporters of a misogynist and patriarchal culture.
Barbarism is everywhere, not only among Muslims. Raping women is a generalized declaration of hostilities against their very identity. It means using tools that have unfortunately become typical in war, and not just modern ones.
Sexual assault doesn’t usually lead to public demonstrations, yet on Saturday women courageously took to the streets against violence and against the anti-Islam and neo-Nazi right. The famous Cologne Carnival has been canceled.
If it were a terrorist act, it would have worked out perfectly. But even if it had been organized by xenophobic Nazis, do they not have the same fascist ideology as other terrorists? The German right sees in these acts the confirmation of its prediction: Barbarians will come and will rape our women. The extreme right is already taking advantage of it. Angela Merkel will surely pay — in electoral terms — for her admissions policy, although so far she had managed to contain the opposition. Her reaction to these events was indeed very stern.
The response to the New Year’s Eve violence was delayed by euphemistic reports by the police, who are guilty of not intervening on account of political correctness: The issues of migration, refugees, Islam and violence are taboo in Germany.
It is clear that if refugees or asylum seekers were among those who attacked women, they will pay the highest price — or at least the next refugees who try to enter Europe will. In Italy, a law to abolish the crime of illegal immigration, which was due for passage in Parliament soon, will probably be postponed.
Once again, women are the victims and men take advantage of the outcry.
–> editorial originally published in Italian at il manifesto on Jan. 10, 2015
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