What do our reactions to a 13-year-old’s false allegations of gang-rape say about us?

Published: February 2, 2016

More than a million migrants and refugees entered Europe in 2015, which is a staggering figure. Even if a thousand of them are involved in sexual crimes that is a tiny percentage of 0.1%. PHOTO: REUTERS

The 13-year-old Berlin based German-Russian girl’s allegations of being kidnapped and gang-raped by men of Arabic and African origin quickly snowballed into a storm. Her claim was the men had forced her into their vehicle and attacked her.

Reports of the girl’s harrowing tale were shared across Russian social media and even made it to local television. They were met with demonstrations by an anti-migrant national right-wing political party, as well as people from the Russian community in Germany who were backed by the Pegida-related Bärgida movement.

The matter soon turned into an international incident. While the German police rightly kept a tight lid on the on-going investigation, especially in light of what they were learning, Russian authorities fanned the flames. In an emotional allegation, Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov accused the Germans of covering up the gang-rape out of political correctness,

“The news that she disappeared was kept secret for a very long time.”

To make matters worse, on Russian state-TV, members of the girl’s family criticised German police for not investigating.

As it turns out, the allegations were false.

You have to feel for the German authorities in this matter. Almost immediately, they learned the incident had been fabricated by a troubled girl from a minority group facing family problems. Yet they could not disclose their findings out of sensitivity for the nature of the crime without, at the very least, completing their investigation.

According to reports, there were no signs of sexual assault on the girl from a medical examination. After speaking to investigators trained in solving crimes of this nature, the girl ‘immediately’ admitted she hadn’t been raped.

It began when an incident at school left her bruised. According to German Prosecutor, Martin Steltner, she was frightened when the school complained to her family. Here, she stayed with a German friend with whom she had no sexual contact.

When she finally returned to her parents 30 hours later, she made up the story. It is worth noting that she may have had consensual sexual relations with two men months before the incident. It is now being investigated as statutory rape considering the age of the girl.

From what can be gathered, this girl is suffering from problems at home and school. With the cases of sexual assault on New Year’s Eve the topic of discussion in Germany, she found a believable excuse. Rather than go home to angry parents after being reported, she stayed with a friend, and returned with a claim she had been attacked men of Arab, Turkish, and African origin.

On Sunday, in an interview with Der Spiegel magazine, the girl’s mother said her daughter had been admitted to a psychiatric ward. As expected, the story has resulted in a mix of extreme responses, especially online; there are people belittling the girl; people belittling rape survivors; people claiming most refugees are rapists and people claiming this story proves all allegations of sexual assault against migrants were fabricated.

Let’s put some things in perspective.

1. The girl was only 13 and disturbed. Let’s forgive her and move on.

2. This incident doesn’t change the fact that countless suffer the harrowing ordeal of rape across the world.

3. On New Year’s Eve in Cologne alone, over 500 women reported being sexually assaulted by men of North African and Arab origin. This incident doesn’t change the fact sexual crimes at the hands of migrants have increased as the refugee crisis has swept across Europe.

4. Not all migrants are rapists. In fact, the vast majority aren’t. More than a million migrants and refugees entered Europe in 2015, which is a staggering figure. Even if a thousand of them are involved in sexual crimes that is a tiny percentage of 0.1%.

5. This doesn’t invalidate European fears. In a continent free of borders where women are free to go about their lives, even a minute increase in attacks is enough to send shockwaves through the European way of life. For generously opening up their borders, they do not deserve even an ounce of fear.

6. If a million people have successfully reached Europe, you can imagine how many have been left behind facing death, starvation, and worse. Videos of tearful Syrian children begging for food as they confess to eating grass are heart-breaking to watch. This is a humanitarian crisis.

7. While welcoming refugees as migrants is a noble response, those European nations welcoming people from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, and North Africa should not, out of some misplaced sense of political correctness, ignore the fact that the people being integrated into their free cultures are accustomed to misogynistic customs. Let them come, but maintain a zero tolerance policy on the traditions that clash with European ways.

As statistics suggest, the overwhelming majority of migrants become productive and positive members of their host nations. They are an asset to any country welcoming them. At the same time, a minority of miscreants are having a negative impact. By closing their eyes to these issues, the leaders of Europe are not only doing a disservice to their own people, but to the hardworking honest refugees seeking a better life.

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.