New Year’s eve is usually a time of fun and revelry – but for a group of women in the German city of Cologne, it was a nightmare.
Amazingly, the details of what happened are only starting to emerge now.
More than 100 women in the city say they were assaulted by groups of men near the city’s central railway station.
The BBC reports at least one woman was raped, many were groped, and there were dozens of robberies.
Dana Regev is a journalist with DW news in Cologne, and says the attackers came from a rowdy crowd of as many as as 1000 men. And she says that’s not the most shocking part of the story.
Regev says part of what has sparked so much outrage about the attacks is the way authorities have responded.
She says after New Years, the Cologne police posted to Facebook that the evening had been a smooth success, except for “one minor incident.”
When the scale of that incident became clear, they were forced to backtrack.
Regev says the mayor is also feeling the heat, after telling a press conference that women should stay at arms length from strangers.
“This gave women the feeling that they are somehow responsible for their own assault. or that sexual assault has anything to do with what women wear or the way they behave.”
Regev says police claim to have I.D.’d 100 “suspicious” people that night. They have now taken 11 people into custody, and say they have identified 70 others.
The element of the story that has pushed it from horrifying and shocking to politically explosive is the allegation from many of the women that their attackers were Middle Eastern or asylum seekers.
— Dana Regev (@Dana_Regev) January 7, 2016
The fact was not widely reported originally, and Ragev says there’s controversy there too.
“One of the police officers talking under the condition of anonymity says he was ordered by his commander not to reveal this detail, as this will create an awkward public environment.”
She says the political situation around the refugee crisis in Germany is extremely fragile right now, and that it wouldn’t be surprising if authorities had sought to play down that element of the story.