German authorities fear that a cultural gang-rape phenomenon known as “taharrush gamea” has made its way to the streets of Europe.
Taharrush roughly translates to “collective harassment,” and is a practice during celebrations in the Arab world. Dozens of men target and surround women to grope and sometimes rape them.
Authorities now believe the more than 500 assaults in Cologne on New Year’s Eve were examples of “taharrush.”
“Such crimes are committed by groups of young men … mostly when there are large gatherings of people, such as demonstrations,” Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (BKA) said in a statement according to newspaper Welt am Sonntag. “They range from sexual harassment to rape.”
The BKA said nationwide “fighting approaches” will be implemented to tackle “taharrush” and its spreading in society.
The phenomenon came to light during demonstrations in Egypt in 2011. CBS reporter Lara Logan became victim of “taharrush” when she was reporting on celebrations Tahrir Square in Cairo. Hundreds of people assaulted her after she was separated from her crew.
“Suddenly, before I even know what’s happening, I feel hands grabbing my breasts, grabbing my crotch, grabbing me from behind. I mean, and it’s not one person and then it stops, it’s like one person and another person and another person,” she said in a 2011 interview with 60 Minutes. “And I know Ray is right there, and he’s grabbing at me and screaming, ‘Lara hold onto me, hold onto me.’”