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German-Moroccan soldier criticizes racism

Manasi GopalakrishnanJanuary 26, 2016

Nariman Reinke, a German soldier of Moroccan origin, decided to take a stand against the Cologne assaults of New Year's Eve and the racism that followed. But she has received a decidedly mixed response.

Image: picture-alliance/dpa/H. Hollemann

In the days after New Year's Eve, police reported that a series of sexual assaults and muggings had occurred around Cologne's central train station. They ultimately received hundreds of complaints and at one point believed that the attacks potentially involved up to 1,000 men of North African origin, primarily Moroccan. Hamburg and Stuttgart witnessed similar incidents, though on a smaller scale. The revelations shocked the German public, with calls to reduce the number of migrants to the country.

Thirty-six-year-old Nariman Reinke, daughter of Moroccan parents and now a soldier with the German army, or Bundeswehr, decided to write a Facebook post about the incident.

"People began making generalizations," Reinke told DW. "When rumors cropped up that there were some refugees among the offenders, the incident was completely mixed up with Germany's refugee policy. 'You brought the criminals in yourself,' they said. Islam preaches only crime. Then they spoke about Salafism in the same breath, about terror in the same breath. ... It was enough."

Köln Flüchtlinge Demonstration gegen Übergriffe in der Silvesternacht
Syrian refugees condemned the sexual assaults on New Year's EveImage: DW/J. Ospina-Valencia

She even had to contend with people who accused her of not understanding the plight of the women who had been harassed. "Sexual harassment - against women, men or children- is bad," Reinke said. "I don't want anyone to experience this."

Reinke's Facebook post begins with her saying she is a "German and a Muslim." She says she was "ashamed" and felt "sick" when she heard that there were several Moroccans among the men who harassed women in Cologne on December 31.

"My parents worked very hard to establish themselves here ..." Reinke told DW. "I cringe when I hear these people who sexually assaulted women were from Morocco."

Reinke said she also feels bad when she hears about a refugee home being attacked. "For me it is attempted murder ... because then people say, 'All Germans are Nazis.' And that makes me cringe too."

Reinke's message unleashed an outpouring of reactions. She said her supervisors at the Bundeswehr and her organization Deutscher Soldat, which volunteers for refugee causes, were very cooperative. "I did not realize that it had been shared so much," she said, adding that she was on holiday and looking for wedding dresses with her best friend who was getting married.

"I had a lot of positive feedback, but also a lot of negative comments, many racist comments that had nothing to do with what I wrote," Reinke said.

Deutschland Hauptbahnhof in Köln
Up to 1,000 men, some allegedly of North African origin, are reported to have sexually attacked and robbed hundreds of women in Cologne December 31Image: picture alliance/dpa/O. Berg

Reinke said the attacks would surely have long-term repercussions for foreigners and their children in Germany. "My brother likes keeping a beard, my husband too," she said. "They find it nice. But my brother was beaten up on the street because of the beard because those who did it thought he was a radical Islamist. He had to shave off his beard."

Above all, she said, Germany must not begin denying help to persecuted people.