In Cologne, Germany on New Year’s Eve, police reported a number of sexual attacks — including harassment and rape. Refugees quickly became the fallguy for the attacks, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel became the target of vitriol for her pledges to welcome refugees into Germany.
A clarification was announced Sunday, when Cologne’s public prosecutor Ulrich Bremer told German newspaper Der Welt that earlier quotes were misinterpreted.
Only three of the 58 people arrested for the attacks were refugees from Syria or Iraq. The police chief also said that of the more than 1000 reported incidents, 600 were connected to theft instead of sexual in nature.
The other people arrested were mostly of North African descent, though three were German citizens, according to Bremer.
The fact that only three of the arrested were from Syria or Iraq will likely do little to stem the xenophobic and Islamophobic outrage emanating from Germany, where Middle Easterners have faced heavy stereotyping as sexual deviants who aren’t able to assimilate into European culture. Last month, controversial French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo portrayed three-year-old drowned Syrian refugee Alan Kurdi as growing up to sexually assault European women.
“Such stereotypes have been used to justify age-old fears of ‘dark-skinned’ men defiling white women — and to stoke concerns about open policies toward migrants in Germany, as well as in other Western European countries that saw similar attacks erupt beneath fireworks on the eve of the new year,” ThinkProgress wrote last month.
Demonizing refugees and migrant also unjustly labels an entire community. This is best shown by the case of Syrian refugee Hesham Ahmad Mohammad, who helped a Seattle-native get away from attackers in Cologne trying to steal her things and kiss her face and neck.
“We keep hearing news about refugees all day: ‘They are bad people, they must go back to their home,’ ” Mohammad, 32, told the New York Times. “When I hear that in the news, I am sad. Because we know that there were bad boys and bad people. But the good people, nobody speak about them.”