Three young schoolgirls in Austria were sexually harassed and assaulted by their classmates – four Muslim immigrant boys from Syria and Afghanistan seeking asylum in the European country – for months before anyone took action, The Local is reporting.
One of the victims was 14-years-old; the ages of the other two victims have not been made public. The three girls and their four assailants all attended the Neue Mittelschul Schlosstrasse (Schlosstrasse Middle School) in Salzburg.
Police say that going back as far as November 2015, the three young girls were subject to increasingly violent and severe attacks by the four boys. It started with the boys groping the girls on the buttocks; it later progressed to fondling. Then the attacks started getting worse; one of the immigrant boys punched one of the girls so hard in the back of the head that she smashed her face on a desk. And on Wednesday, one of the boys smashed a girl’s head into a locker. That’s when school headmistress Eva Szalony notified the police.
At least one of the girls claims to have made a complaint before Wednesday’s attack: a victim, age 14, said that she was motivated to finally notify the police about the ongoing sexual assault after she read about the New Year’s Eve events in Cologne, Germany. That night, hundreds of men, said to be immigrants of North African and Middle Eastern descent, terrorized the crowd and sexually assaulted dozens of women.
— Anil kumar (@simbamara) January 5, 2016
It is not clear if the police acted on the girl’s complaint at that time, or if not, why they didn’t act.
Headmistress Szalony said she is opening an investigation into why the girls endured the sexual abuse for so long without reporting it.
Four boys have been suspended for their roles in the sexual assaults. The boys, aged 14, 15, and 16, were all recent immigrants to Austria. All four were unaccompanied minors who fled from Syria and Afghanistan and found homes in Austria. Szalony said that, as far as she knew, the boys were happy to be in Austria and grateful for being allowed to attend school.
“They were integrating themselves very well.”
The Austrian schoolgirls’ sexual assault case highlights a problem that European nations welcoming to Syrian and other Middle Eastern refugees seem to be having: that is, the problem of immigrants refusing to obey the laws of their new home and not respecting their new culture. In some Islamist cultures – Afghansitan in particular – women and girls are not afforded the same rights and protections that they are in Western nations, and sexual violence against women and girls is a way of life.
— Feminist Majority (@MajoritySpeaks) March 5, 2015
Austrian women’s rights activist Landesrätin Martina Berthold, speaking to local newspaper Die Krone, is concerned about the problem of immigrant men and boys perpetrating sexual violence in their new Western homes.
“I am strongly against violence – no matter by whom it emanates.”
For this reason, Ms. Berthold has created a program – “Heroes” – to teach immigrant boys about equality and human rights, and then to be “ambassadors for a nonviolent society” in their schools, their homes, and in refugee shelters. She also hopes to start a similar program for men.
In the meantime, Salzburg officials say the boys who sexually assaulted their female schoolmates are being dealt with “very seriously,” and that a special coordinator will be appointed to work with refugee boys, and their teachers, in Salzburg schools.
[Image via Shutterstock/fizkes]