Three Muslim girls, two of Syrian origin, were assaulted in separate attacks in the German capital Berlin, with anti-immigrant sentiments thought to be the motive.
Two Syrian refugees aged 15 and 16 were walking in the northeast of the city on Friday when they were confronted with a man spouting racist insults, the German authorities said on Saturday. The man then proceeded to attack the girls, punching them several times before fleeing to a nearby shopping mall, according to police.
The girls sustained injuries and were transferred to a hospital for treatment.
Hours later, a 12 year-old girl reported that she had been attacked by a woman in the south eastern district of Neukölln. The woman reportedly pulled off the girl’s headscarf, threatened her with pepper spray, and attempted to stab the child with a syringe filled with what appeared to be blood, police said, but she managed to flee as officers arrived at the scene.
Germany has become deeply polarised since Chancellor Angela Merkel’s 2015 decision to open the country’s borders to refugees. Some one million people – mainly from Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan – have crossed into to Germany, fuelling an upsurge of anti-immigrant sentiment and contributing to a rise in support for the far-right, anti-Islam Alternative for Germany (AfD) party.
During Germany’s elections in September 2017 the AfD gained new ground, entering parliament for the first time as the third-biggest party. Their election campaign had centred around anti-immigrant rhetoric, claiming that the influx of mainly-Muslim migrants would undermine German culture and asserting that Islamic customs have no place in the country.
Germany witnessed its first xenophobic attack of the year on New Year’s Day, when a 50-year-old German man deliberately drove his car into foreigners in the western cities of Bottrop and Essen. Eight people were injured in the incident, including a Syrian family and their 10-year-old daughter; the man was subsequently charged with attempted murder.
The attack is also the latest assault on Syrian refugee children in recent months; in December, criminal charges were brought against a US high school student after she beat a fellow Syrian student so severely she required treatment at a hospital for concussion.
In November, a video showing a Syrian refugee being attacked by fellow students at a school in the UK went viral on social media, prompting outrage across the world. In the video, the 15-year-old – known only as Jamal – was seen walking alone before being head-butted, dragged to the floor, pinned down by his neck and water boarded by a group of boys. The boy’s sister was also believed to have experienced continual racist verbal abuse, which reportedly led her to attempt suicide.
Although subsequently investigated by the local council and police, reports last week indicate that the family – who fled from Syria in 2010 – have been forced to move again from their home in the northern UK town of Huddersfield after they received death threats for publicising their ordeal.