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There is a reality happening in Europe today that few are willing publicly to discuss. It is a frequent topic of conversation at dinner tables in the privacy of one’s own home, among family or close friends. But it is unfashionable and even dangerous to voice it openly in the age of identity politics.  

The taboo topic is the undermining of women’s rights in multiple countries in the wake of mass migration.  

When I escaped to the Netherlands from a forced marriage that my Somali father arranged, I discovered a level of freedom I had never known. I looked to Dutch women, who were so incredibly strong and self-confident, to explain these new rights to me. I never thought that native-born European women would come to experience the kind of sexual harassment from immigrant men that I knew only too well.  

In the part of the world where I come from, women are seen as sexual objects that many men feel they can own, use and abuse. I witnessed this not only in Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Kenya, but also in the asylum-seekers' center where I was placed when I first arrived in the Netherlands.   


At that center, there were men from countries like Iran, Iraq, Algeria, Ghana, the former Yugoslavia, Nigeria, Liberia, Sierra Leone and of course, Somalia.  We women faced relentless sexual harassment from them.  


Walking around the campus, we were followed by men making lewd suggestions and asking for "favors." I recall volunteering in the laundry room and men approaching the counter with their dirty clothes, pointing out semen on the sheets and asking me: "Can we do it tonight?" 

I never thought that this behavior would seep out into the streets of Europe. I was under the impression that these men behaved in this vulgar way only toward fellow asylum-seekers.  

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However, with the recent influx of refugees and economic migrants to Europe (mostly male, mostly under 35 and mostly from Muslim-majority countries), I have noticed an alarming trend: sexual violence has seen a significant increase in several European countries. 

Through careful scrutiny of crime statistics, court reports and interviews with victims, I have been able to establish that this sex crime wave is a consequence of the great surge of migration that had its peak in 2015-16. In cities all over Europe, women’s safety has been reduced.  

I’ve spoken to numerous native-born European women who’ve experienced sexual assault or harassment at the hands of migrants. I’ve examined too many cases of women who’ve been stalked, molested, raped and even killed. Each is sickening and heart-wrenching, and several were avoidable.   

One example is that of Nicola Frank, a 39-year-old editor and mother living in Oldenburg in northwestern Germany. Politically, Nicola leans left, believes in religious and racial tolerance, and even worked for antiracist groups in high school.  

"As a young girl," she told me, "I never worried about feeling harassed or unsafe in my surroundings. For me, this started to change in 2015. It is a recent phenomenon that women are not safe here during the day. It’s a problem all over the world that women are not safe at certain times of night. But here during the daylight, being harassed and receiving disrespectful sexual remarks didn’t happen to me before.  

European governments ... need to do much more to address the challenge of integrating young men from countries where women are not regarded as equals.  

"All the German cities I know have changed. Two guys harassed me while I was visiting Bonn, my hometown, this summer. They were very young, certainly under 25, and clearly immigrants. In this situation I would normally show a clear response – perhaps even an aggressive one – but I was with my 2-year-old son, I didn’t want to provoke them further, so I just gave them the finger. They laughed and moved on to harass other women walking near us." 

I asked her if this was typical of how all men in Germany behaved now. She was visibly uncomfortable but responded honestly: "Sadly, no. I have to say for me it is a consequence of migration. It’s hard to articulate. It’s a problem with culture and the attitudes of Arab men to women."  

Due to the increased harassment in her area, Nicola has changed her daily lifestyle. She carries pepper spray in her pocket. She takes alternative routes, postpones morning walks with her son until there is ample daylight, no longer visits the city park and avoids certain neighborhoods or supermarkets that she used to frequent.  

Since two young Arab-looking men addressed her as "you c---" in German at the local canal, she has avoided the area. "There were joggers, cyclists and other pedestrians around," she recalled. "I wasn’t the only woman who had to endure that treatment … It’s obvious that these men aren’t afraid of anything and don’t have any respect."  

What Nicola described to me is the grueling, recurrent experience of countless women in Europe, where leaving your house to go down the street now means being on your guard, not knowing who or what you will have to fend off.   

The coping mechanisms that native-born European women are developing are the same ones that I used in the asylum-seekers' center: going out as little as possible (never alone, especially after dark), avoiding certain areas, keeping your gaze pointed at the ground, and doing everything possible to elude unwanted attention.  

This assault on women in Europe can be stopped. I am not one of those who oppose immigration; I was once a migrant, after all. I do believe that the rule of law must be upheld, but I do not pretend that tougher policing and sentences are the sole solution.  

In my view, the cultural integration of newcomers must be pursued as a goal of public policy. I find it grotesque that governments and the mainstream media have gone to such lengths to downplay the post-2015 sex crime wave, in the misguided belief that a conspiracy of silence would somehow help to counter far-right populism.  

The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us the enormous power that governments are capable of exercising when lives and health are at stake. They can impose and enforce lockdowns on their entire citizenry. It is unethical for them to ignore what is happening to women’s rights, in the name of political correctness. Honest conversation is needed.  


The protection of every citizens’ individual rights and freedoms is the primary responsibility of a government. European governments must remember this. They therefore need to do much more to address the challenge of integrating young men from countries where women are not regarded as equals.  

If this does not happen, the erosion of women’s rights will continue. As any rights diminish, they become more difficult to recover. European women might not have achieved full equality with men before 2015, but they had come a long way. It will be a bitter irony if, at a time when #MeToo was a top-trending hashtag in the United States, a sex crime wave in Europe was hushed up.