Sexual violence on New Year's Eve in Milan: it was wrong to remain silent about the origins of the attackers
Overlooking the fact that they were young North Africans prevents a clear reading of what happened. And it exercises the correctness of hospitality on the skin of women. The parallel with the events in Cologne in 2016 and the opinion of the German feminist Alice Schwartzer

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A few days ago, 5 girls on the train returning from Gardaland were sexually and verbally attacked by a group of at least thirty young people of North African origin (the story here). A dynamic very similar to that of the events of New Year's Eve 2021 in Milan (and New Year's Eve 2016 in Cologne). The things to say are always the same, and we present them again. It is no longer possible, for the sake of correctness, to pretend that the problem does not exist. Women are not prey.

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Violence, a function of male domination, has no nationality.

But keep quiet or overlook the origins of the members of the gang that attacked some girls - at least 9 - in Milan on New Year's Eve (everyone young North Africans or Italians of North African origin, here is one of the videos) is wrong for at least two reasons: the first is that it removes elements necessary for a clear reading of what happened; the second, which the correctness of the welcome cannot be exercised on the skin of women.

The phenomenon of collective harassment of a woman (taḥarrush jamāʿī) would be widespread in the Arab world.

Years ago the Swedish police had admitted that they had remained silent about the origins of many perpetrators of rape and molestation in order not to provide arguments to the right, only to then realize that these omissions are actually playing into the hands of xenophobes. Of the 842 men convicted of rape or attempted rape in the last five years, as detected from a service broadcast by the public television broadcaster Svt Nyheter, 58 percent were of foreign origin –Middle East and North Africa, Southern Africa and other non-European countries. 

The events in Milan are strikingly reminiscent of New Year's Eve 2016 in Cologne and other German cities. It is therefore worth repeating some reflections published on that occasion which also apply to the Milanese New Year.

Next, ainterview with Alice Schwartzer, German feminist founder of the periodical Emma.

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NEW YEAR'S EVE IN COLOGNE: TAHIR SQUARE IN THE HEART OF EUROPE

The greatest danger we face after the Cologne events - a thousand "Arabs and North Africans" who on New Year's Eve attacked all the women they met free on the street, 90 complaints of harassment, 2 rapes - it is the underestimation (similar episodes also in Hamburg, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf and Stuttgart).

It was a act of guerrilla warfare organized, excited by alcohol and brawls, in which women played the part of the prey, as always in circumstances of war. In fact, it was much more. Marauders stole and molested: there was no difference between things and women. If the attacks in Paris were spoken of as an act of jihad in the heart of Europe, the events in Cologne should be spoken of as a Tahir square exported to Germany: not the Tahir Square of the Arab Spring, the one where women participated as equals in the "revolutionary" uprisings, but the Tahir Square immediately afterwards, the one in which women were harassed, insulted, humiliated and groped to brutally bring them back to their state of unfreedom.

We have all been molested at least once in our lives. And the message is clear to us: you are just something at my disposal, especially if you walk alone in the street, showing that you do not belong to any man; no freedom is allowed to you, other than that of handing yourself over to a master, and if you don't do it, if you think you can be independent, earn your own bread, drive a car, dress as you like, you are just a whore my disposition. And you have to be afraid.

“Being a woman is dangerous everywhere,” as Mona Eltahawy writes (“Why they hate us”): it must become the same again in Germany, also in Europe. This is the message that had to arrive, and it has arrived. The stammering of the poor mayor of Cologne (the advice to her fellow citizens to "keep an arm's length away, EineArmlaenge, from strangers) are there to prove it. The dangers of being born a woman, the fear that must follow - that is, the precise reversal of the fear that men feel for maternal power and unlimited female enjoyment - is the ineliminable foundation of patriarchy, the heart of the male question. If just one woman shows she is not afraid, the entire facility is at risk of collapse.

The men of Cologne they were not poor sexual abstainers who were looking for opportunities to "vent": rape and molestation are only pseudosexual acts, what is sought is not pleasure, but domination and the symbolic murder of the prey. The men of Cologne eThey were men who put things right, reaffirming a system of values which finds its foundation, its seal, its guarantee in the posture of domination - male above, female below. The men of Cologne they wanted to teach the men of Germany a lesson, who are led by their women, who even have a female prime minister. Something similar to ethnic rape.

It is a question, I was saying, of not underestimating: pretending that the men of Cologne are not so different from the drunks at the Oktoberfest means leaving the xenophobic right with the exclusive task of interpreting the story and imagining political responses. And the males of the xenophobic right are certainly not champions of female freedom.

It's about knowing how to read what happened on New Year's Eve without seeking refuge in the rhetoric of correctness. Or, worse, concocting pathetic and self-consoling conspiracy theories, such as: everything was organised, even the non-intervention of the police, so as to be able to restrict reception policies, and other similar nonsense.

Let's keep things certain. And one thing that is certain, as we have always said, is that the woman's body is the definitive battlefield. What happens to the Yazidis, the Syrians, the Saudis concerns us, it is much closer than we would like to believe. AND reducing our claims to freedom, even by just an arm's length, means reducing theirs too.

Keeping women at the center - starting with reception policies - is a very first, unavoidable response. There is no one more refugees than them.

Marina Terragni

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INTERVIEW WITH ALICE SCHWARZER

Alice Schwarzer, German feminist historian, publishes a book-exposé. The police hid the origin of the suspicions. And the law does not punish "harassment". Part Emma Bonino, part Oriana Fallaci, Alice Schwarzer is an undisputed protagonist in the history of German and European feminism. A pro-abortion, anti-pornography and anti-legal prostitution activist, Schwarzer is tireless: he founded the magazine Emma, she has written 16 books, some of which have been translated into numerous languages... Now she is back with a new book: what triggered her was the group harassment on New Year's Eve in her colony by thousands of North Africans on hundreds of women who came to square to celebrate the new year.

Why a new book?
«In the weeks following New Year's Eve, journalists from all over the world came to the editorial office in Emma, a 15-minute walk from Cologne station. They asked us many different questions, but everyone asked one. “Why doesn't anyone in Germany want to understand the political dimension of the night of horror?”. And I wonder that too. It had never happened in Germany or Europe that the main square of a metropolis became a lawless place in which thousands of men could attack hundreds of women for hours. To date, 625 complaints of sexual harassment have been registered in Cologne alone. We add to this that that night two issues that I have been dealing with for forty years exploded with virulence: sexual violence and the politicization of Islam."

Despite the harassment of hundreds, almost none of those responsible ended up in the law.
«I assume that not even one of those criminals will be convicted; and I say this for two reasons. First, these methods of assault make it very difficult to arrest a single person. In the square that night there were between one thousand and two thousand men: small groups of six, seven, eight individuals broke away from the pack and surrounded the women, chased away any companions and mistreated their victims. Then, as fast as lightning, they plunged back into the mass. In this way it is very difficult for investigators to recognize the individual and demonstrate his responsibilities. Secondly, to date in Germany simple sexual "harassment" is not a criminal offense. Rape – i.e. penetration – yes, but groping no. Consequently, even if the guilt of one of the perpetrators were proven, he would have little to fear."

Do you believe in the political will of some who would have tried to hide or keep quiet about the foreign origin of the abusers?
«Yes, and there are many signs and indications in this regard. Already in 2008 in North Rhine-Westphalia (the Land with Cologne, ed.) a ministerial circular was issued in which it was recommended not to disclose the ethnic origin of arrested criminals. And for decades now the climate of political correctness has prevailed among the Cologne police, dictated by the fear of otherwise being accused of racism."

But does Islam belong to Germany or not?
«What does “Islam” mean? There is no single answer because there are hundreds of ways to interpret it and experience it. Islam as a faith pertains to the private sphere and is obviously reconcilable with the German lifestyle. Islam as a political strategy, however, is not compatible, because for Islam the sharia is superior to the law, and women are inferior to men."

Do you think the full veil should be banned? Even the chain with the cross?
«Do you want to joke? A cross on the neck is in no way comparable to the full veil which disables and is inhumane. In Islamic regimes or where terror reigns, women risk their lives if they do not wear the burqa. The process of making women invisible is the lowest level of vilification towards them. And as regards the cross: I am completely in favor of banning any religious symbol in schools: both the veil and the crucifix on the wall. But the fact that Western political leaders visiting Tehran cover their heads today is pathetic; and it is a betrayal towards millions of women who are instead forced to wear the veil."

How do you think government and civil society should address the problem of violence against women?
«I belong to a generation of feminists who have been fighting against sexual violence for over 40 years: from sexual abuse to rape, from prostitution to sexual homicide. And of course also against the violence conducted by Germans. We haven't achieved everything yet but we have done a lot: we certainly don't want to go backwards."


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