Lager at Teichweg 6 in Bernburg. Photo: Pülicher

We are (female) African immigrants living in ______, Germany. Since April 24, an association for mistreated, beaten, assaulted, and abused women is taking charge of us. Since we are here, we feel that we are coming to life again, even if we continue to struggle to overcome our previous traumas and those that we recently had to go through in Halberstadt and Bernburg Saale.

The story that we are going to tell you today is the story that we, the ladies B, F, H, K, have suffered in Bernburg (Saale), more precisely at Teichweg 6, a home (Heim) for foreign residents. On April 22, Ms. B has been physically assaulted by Mr. E, who lives in the same home as us. All of this was the result of misunderstandings or gossip; this is why Mr. E entered her room in a certain anger and gave her a thrashing without any explanation. She held her baby of one year and a half in her arms. Following a cry for help by Ms. F, all residents of the home went to the victim‘s room, where we tried to drag her out on the corridor to protect her from the hands of her Guru (aggressor/manipulator).

But the latter still managed to hit her with well-placed blows, as if he was engaging in a fight between friends, from man to man, I would even say. He promised to continue to do so even in the presence of the police if they happened to come. The security was unable to put an end to these barbaric acts and hatred, and decided finally to call the police who arrived a few minutes later to inquire about the situation and to re-establish the order.

Once the police arrived in the premises, the report was written, and the victim B and her baby were transferred to the hospital for examination, including a C.T. Fortunately and thanks to God, nothing serious was detected except for injuries of the face, scratches on the arm and severe headache that endured for about a week. The baby did not cease to cry for a week, too, and refused to drink or eat. This was undoubtedly due to the shock she felt during the altercation between her mother and their Guru. The little one was simply traumatized, like the rest of us as well, by the way! It goes without saying that during the fight, Ms. K, too, was blessed on her arm when she tried to separate them in vain. More than that, since she blamed Mr. E for the barbarism of his act, he promised to beat Ms. F, too, who has a physical handicap.
Fortunately, she was at few kilometers’ distance away from him. But we can affirm that this rage against Ms. F stemmed to some degree from the following fact: she had blamed him, earlier that day, that he lacked respect towards his girlfriend by spending his time chatting up all girls in the camp which didn‘t make of him a man of integrity and dignity. And if he really needed to try to pick up girls, this should not happen right in the camp but better at some distance of it. Because she merited at least a minimum of his respect and because this way misunderstandings between the respective girl, his girlfriend, and us, who were friends with her, could be avoided. He did not take this well and already had a grudge against Ms. F.

Upon the arrival of the police, we all underwent an interrogation, and he happened to deny all the facts, but in his soul and conscience, he knew very well he was lying. It goes without saying that during the testimonials made towards the police, Ms. H decided to testify about all the harassments by Mr. E she became a victim of since June 2019. Every time she went to the toilet or to take a shower, he ran after her, and sometimes he even squeezed her against the wall in order to rub his genitals against her. She had been suffering from this already for a while. Since she was able to reveal these things to the police, Ms. F, too, decided to denounce all the pressure he was putting on her every time he saw her, to accept to become his other girlfriend. It goes without saying that Mr. E already lives with a young lady, whom we called his girlfriend throughout this text, and they have a baby of hardly four months together. Mr. E even went so far as to caress the knee of Ms. F without her consent once when they were taking a car together. He always made her tempting proposals such as, „I give you this and that, and you give me the possibility to have you as a girlfriend, which means that you have to leave your door unlocked during the night so that I can enter.“ The worst thing is that he and his girlfriend lived right opposite of Ms. F. As a consequence of Ms. F‘s revelations, Ms. B decided to give away the truth to the police as well because she was another victim of Mr. E‘s sexual mischiefs. Every time he carried her baby or gave the baby back to her, he consciously pressed her breast without her consent. He was even jealous every time he saw her in the company of other guys from the camp, although nothing was going on between them, by the way.

The police noted everything and asked us to call the immigration office of Bernburg (Saale), which is in charge of us migrants, or just to go there the next day personally, which we did.

Before going to the immigration office on April 23, Ms. H went to meet the director of the camp who already knew the situation. Ms. H. shared all the testimonies with her that we had made to the police the day before. But she was not really surprised because every time someone had cracked her door during the night, Ms. H had reported this to her, but she always remained indifferent and did not take it seriously. Ms. Director of the camp did not find anything else to say than Mr. E would not stay in the camp any longer than Monday, April 27, when he was supposed to return. If we happened to meet him in the streets, we would just have to hide in order to avoid any new aggression. What kind of way to resolve our problems! We still felt insecure because all of his friends and brothers from the same country blamed us that we had called the police and looked at us furiously.

As a result of this, the next day, they decided not to greet us anymore. We felt very unsafe because we realized that we had all gone through the same scenarios, we had in common that some unknown men came every night trying to crack our doorhandle and surprise us naked in our beds.

We were unsatisfied, unsatisfied with the answer given by the director of the Heim, and decided to make ourselves understood by the immigration office in Bernburg Saale as the police had recommended the day before.

When we arrived, we regretted having gone there in the first place because the 4 or 5 persons who had come to listen to us at the door, asked us to go back to the camp. They would take our complaint when the Coronavirus would be over. Such a deception! That was a big hit with a club on our heads. Who would have thought that an authority in charge of our protection would send us to a public condemnation, waiting for the Coronavirus to finish before finally taking charge of our protection? And what a surprise, the Coronavirus has continued to rage until today. And if we had remained there, waiting for the end of the virus, where would our lives be today? Would we be the same persons?

We went back as we were used to, desperate and deprived of all our forces, a big fear in our stomachs.

This is how we decided to relate our preoccupations to an NGO that fights for the well-being of migrants. The latter reacted spontaneously and favorably to our call for help and tried to enter in contact with the association of mistreated women in Bernburg Saale, which unfortunately did not pick up the telephone when we asked for their help and protection. The NGO went so far as to send an email which remained without response as well.

In a panic, they decided to come and pick us up very early on Friday, April 24, at 10 a.m. to bring us here to …. where we have been well received by the way, in a very tender and warm manner. So we can finally say that not all Germans are indifferent beings as we came to see or think about the people of Bernburg Saale.

Today, as we try to recover, the immigration office of Bernburg Saale asks us to return to the Salzlandkreis, although they know that the towns of the Salzlandkreis or even those of Sachsen-Anhalt won‘t ever again be perceived the same way in our sub-conscience, they will never again be welcoming cities for us because we will always be confronted with all these people and with Mr. E. After all, we have to renew our documents in the same places, and our monthly payments and other transactions are always done in the same place. We are afraid of returning to Sachsen-Anhalt because Mr. E, his friends and brothers, work in Bernburg Saale and other towns of Sachen-Anhalt. Mr. E can easily have access to us when we are in Sachsen-Anhalt. In difference to that, the current distance between him and us lets us feel more confident and safe. Why is it only now that the immigration office in Bernburg and the women‘s association of Bernburg are interested in us? Where were they when we needed them most? Now that we try to find back our joy of living, why do they want to push us back into anxiety and sadness? Are they not conscient of the trauma and the wrong that we have been victims to and that we continue to face?

What a cruelty to want to take us back to this dark past of our lives. Today we decided to speak about this and today we also chose to reveal all of these flaws of society that we have always been victim to. We have faced these acts of violence and harassment for a long time, and they have eaten into us slowly. We are ready to reveal them to the public, and we are now prepared to speak about them because this might be another form of therapy for us. Without having the intention to be racist, we would like to ask the immigration office of Bernburg Saale: if the situation had been inverse and it would have been four women of German origin, would the have reacted in the same way they did with us?

No matter in what town we are today, the most important thing would be to know if we have bloomed and if we can newly see life from its good side. The aim would be simply to give us back confidence and help us to overcome this trauma.

Our security and our inner peace are worth more than your self-esteem and financial interests that you gain by having us by your side.

Because of a history of self-esteem and because of interests that are not worth it, you want to bring us to where our bodies and souls refuse to be, to where we won‘t stop to reassess the past and continue to live in fear and torture. Do you want to carry the whole pain of four women (and two babies) in your conscience? What did we do to merit so much injustice? We are victims, but you want to treat us as guilty? Today we are shocked by your way of arranging things; we decide simply to break the silence and to lodge a complaint against the immigration office in Bernburg Saale for non-assistance towards persons in danger. We refuse to stay silent any longer, because it would make us complicit with the system. Today we have enough, and we want to be heard by the society to which we all belong. Please, if you read this, please tell us how to behave so that justice will be on our side, and so that we feel morally liberated and our determination can serve as an example to all women who are, like us, victims of sexual harassment and who do not dare to speak.

Because it is by speaking that you free yourself, that you finally work on yourself. The silence of the immigration office of Bernburg Saale turns them complicit of rapists and harassers.