Victim of Cologne attacks says ‘we were systematically sexually harassed’

Der Spiegel reports: The stories of Lara, Jeanette and Paul, three university students from Bonn, paint a vivid picture of what so many women experienced on New Year’s Eve. The trio had traveled to Cologne with two other female friends because the parties there are simply better than they are in Bonn. They arrived at the square in front of the train station just as the police were clearing it. They didn’t know what was going on — all they saw was police officers in helmets pushing people back. They continued on to the banks of the Rhine River, a vantage point from which they could view the fireworks, when Jeanette realized that her money, ID and entry ticket for that night’s club had been stolen.

At midnight, they shared a bottle of cheap champagne out of plastic cups and then headed back to the central train station. In front of the stairs leading from the cathedral down to the train station, they had to squeeze past a large group of men. They locked hands, letting Jeanette take the lead because she knew judo. Paul tried to provide some cover for the girls. At one point, Lara cried out: “Someone just grabbed my crotch!” That was just the beginning.

Hands seemed to come from every direction to grab the women’s bodies. They always went for between the legs. Paul’s attempts to protect the women were futile. Providing cover for one left another to fend for herself. “It was one hand after another,” Jeanette says. She was able to throw one attacker “really violently to the side” with a judo grip.

None of the three students can say for sure who attacked them. They are, however, all in agreement that all of the men surrounding them were speaking the same language, and that it sounded a lot like Arabic.

What Lara, Jeanette and Paul experienced in Cologne wasn’t unique to that city. Police reports indicate that a large group of men also gathered along the famous street in Hamburg’s St. Pauli district known as Grosse Freiheit, most of whom were probably of North African descent. These men committed a series of “property thefts with sexual components.”

In Stuttgart, a 20-year-old Iraqi has been in custody since the morning of Jan. 1 for allegedly groping two women at the city’s Schlossplatz square. Police in Frankfurt am Main have reported similar incidents.

Jeanette and Lara, the two students from Bonn, went to the police six days after New Year’s to file complaints for sexual assault. “We want this to be documented,” Lara says. It makes them furious to read in the newspaper that what happened in Cologne came from the pickpocket milieu. The way Lara sees it: “We were systematically sexually harassed.”

By the time Jeanette, Lara and Paul boarded the delayed train that would take them back to Bonn on New Year’s, it was 2 a.m. During the ride, they met a young Syrian who told them about his flight from Damascus through Lebanon and Turkey and eventually by boat to Greece. From there, he continued on foot through the Balkans and on to Germany. Afterwards, they told him about their night in Cologne. He was horrified, they say. [Continue reading…]

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