New Year troubles in Cologne

Daily: Daily Times
Date: 10.02.16

Cologne, a city in Germany, is now known in the world for sexual attacks on women
committed by immigrants or asylum seekers from Middle Eastern countries on the eve of
the New Year’s celebrations. It is said that the local police and city administration tried to
play down the issue but social media, especially Facebook, frustrated their efforts and
exposed it.

The situation is interesting and raises certain questions. For instance, can the comments
posted on Facebook and any other social media forums be taken as evidence? Similarly, if
social media of any sort is offered as a source of sharing information to the locals, why can
the same tool not be offered to the refugees and asylum seekers to inform the German
government (and the world) of their version? It is no justice to let one group assert a point
of view while depriving the other group of explaining its position. The same opportunities of
resorting to social media should be offered to the refugees and asylum seekers as well to
make counter-comments; only then can one draw a conclusion. Just allegations are not
enough.

On October 31, 2015, two months before the New Year celebrations in Cologne, Melanie
Hall reported from Berlin to a UK-based newspaper,
The Daily Telegraph, “A man has
confessed to murdering and sexually abusing a four-year-old migrant boy who went missing
from a refugee registration centre in Germany. The body of Bosnian boy Mohamed Januzi
was found in the boot of a car on Thursday after he was last seen being led away by a man
from a registration centre for refugees in Berlin earlier in October. The 32-year-old suspect,
named Silvio S under German privacy laws, has also admitted to killing another young boy
who went missing from the German town of Potsdam, near Berlin, in July.” Against this
background, the question is simple: why did social media in Germany remain silent on this
offence? There might be other such crimes against immigrants and asylum seekers that
were never reported, as these displaced people look for the mercy of the locals and try not
to offend them or invite their ire.

On February 1, 2016, one month after the New Year celebrations in Cologne, Nadine
Schmidt reported from Berlin and Tim Hume reported (online) from London for CNN: “A
Berlin teen admits fabricating migrant gang-rape story, official says”. It was further reported:
“A Berlin teen who claimed to have been abducted and gang-raped by migrants, sparking
angry protests and an international row with Russia, has admitted making up the story and
was found to have been staying with a German man instead, an official said Monday. The
13-year-old girl — a member of Berlin’s Russian-speaking community — made the rape
claim to police when she returned after a 30-hour absence last month. She alleged that
three men of Arabic and Turkish descent had dragged her into a car at a train station and
abused her. Stories of the girl’s ordeal circulated in Russian media and on social networks,
prompting street demonstrations by Russian-German communities and right-wing groups.”
Furthermore, “The Berlin prosecutor’s office spokesman Martin Steltner said the girl
withdrew her claim after a medical examination showed that she had not been raped.” This
event tells the reader that immigrants and asylum seekers are vulnerable. They can be
suspected of a crime and maligned. Where are the social media activists? What is the
reparation for those who were falsely implicated and got their reputation blotted for no
reason? Are immigrants and asylum seekers lesser human beings?

Social media has one strength: it makes people interact with each other. However, the
curse of social media is that it allows interlocutors to hide their identities. Even in the newly
surfaced trend of the electronic version of newspapers, where anyone can post a comment
under a fake identity, a new kind of information is surfacing. The feelings lying hidden in
society are being dredged up.

On January 10, 2016, Melanie Hall reported from Berlin, published in a UK daily,
The Daily
Telegraph
, “Hitler’s Mein Kampf sells out instantly after being published in Germany for the
first time in 70 years.” Then, the “demand for the 2,000-page annotated version of the
inflammatory text that hit bookstores on January 8 massively exceeded supply, with 15,000
advance orders for an initial print run of just 4,000 copies. One copy of the edition, which
costs £ 43 (59 euros), was even reportedly put up for resale on Amazon.de for £ 7,521.43
(9,999.99 euros).” The question is why. Before the police could conclude its investigation
on the New Year incidents in Cologne, why has society taken this turn? Why is there no
need to let the police first charge the alleged culprits and then draw conclusions regarding
an event? Why is there a need to jump to the conclusion first? If Hitler’s ideas were so
treasured by Germans, the world must have wasted its time in cursing Hitler since the end
of the Second World War.

The way right-wingers are spreading their wings in Germany, the implications are far-
reaching for both Germany and the world. In the wake of the Cologne incidents, the
upsurge in the popularity of right-wing political parties is no surprise but the surprise lies in
the silence of the police department of Cologne. It should finalise its investigation quickly
and let the world know the truth, whatever it is.

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