Cologne Prepares For More Sexual Assaults During Carnival This Week

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Jacob Bojesson Foreign Correspondent
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Officials in Cologne, Germany are taking special precautions to ensure an upcoming carnival doesn’t turn into a repeat of the more than 500 sexual assaults that took place in the city New Year’s Eve.

The Cologne Carnival is one of Europe’s largest festivals — more than one million people are expected to visit the city during the week-long festival. Authorities fear immigrants will once again celebrate “taharrush gamea,” which translates to “collective harassment.” This is sometimes practiced during Arab celebrations when dozens of men target and surround women to grope and even rape them. (RELATED: Authorities Fear Refugees Have Spilled Gang-Rape Phenomenon ‘Taharrush’ Into The West)

For the upcoming festival, the city will set up “safe zones” for women with extra lighting and social workers on patrol. The police presence will double from last year’s carnival to more than 2,000 officers when celebrations kick-off Thursday with “Women’s night.”

Leaflets describing what the carnival is about and how people are expected to behave have been handed out to refugees. An integral part of the festival is the “Bützen” tradition, where people greet each other with kisses on the cheeks. The flyers — supplied in Arabic — strictly state that Bützen isn’t an invite to sexual activities.

“Sexual approaches are not allowed! Women and men must always be in agreement,” the leaflet reads. “No means no!”

Another concern is the heavy drinking that takes place during festivities. Muslims are not supposed to consume alcohol, and organizers ask refugees respect carnival-goers who do drink.

“Many in Cologne will be drinking beer or other alcoholic beverages at carnival time, but of course there is no obligation to do so,” the flyer says. “Having fun, singing and dancing can all be done as well without alcohol.”

Cologne Mayor Henriette Reker — who was widely criticized for the way she handled the attacks on New Year’s Eve — said people shouldn’t feel worried during the celebrations.

“We’ll celebrate the traditional, unique and world-famous carnival much to everyone’s delight like we have always done in Cologne,” she said. “We have reacted to the events of New Year’s Eve with specific measures.”

The carnival kicks-off Thursday and runs through Ash Wednesday next week.

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