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First they came for the women....an open letter to Europe's political parties

The Huffington Post The Huffington Post 6/03/2016 Joseph V. Micallef

2016-03-01-1456875280-9751580-Flashmob_gegen_Mnnergewalt_Kln_2016_4384.jpg © Provided by The Huffington Post 2016-03-01-1456875280-9751580-Flashmob_gegen_Mnnergewalt_Kln_2016_4384.jpg
German demonstration against Cologne attacks, Cologne Germany January 2016

This posting is by guest columnist Marisa Micallef
.
Could Pastor Niemoller, exasperated at the cover up, obfuscation and inaction towards the increasing threat to Europe's women have written this today?
First they came for the Muslim women in refugee camps and I did not speak out-
because I was not made aware this was happening.
Then they came for the women of Cologne and I did not speak out-
because I thought this could not happen where I lived.
Then they came for a young woman, a refugee worker and I did not speak out-
because I was sure this was a one off case.
Then they made European women, young and old feel uncomfortable simply being out and about and I did not speak out-because I was waiting for the politicians, the women and men that I elected to speak for me.
Then they came for me and there was no one left to speak for me
We European women are asking.
Why did alarm bells not ring with European governments when, we are now told, mainly Muslim men started attacking women in refugee camps, creating a climate of intimidation and fear?
Did the police arrest these men when reports were made? Were reports made? Were the men immediately deported? Were women removed from danger and their safety protected?
These same men who threatened bullied and raped their own countrywomen and people of their own faith were allowed to enter freely into Europe's cities towns and villages. Is this true?
Terrorists do not need to have a bomb strapped to their chest. A male terrorist can stalk our streets solo or in gangs, in train stations or on public transport making women feel apprehensive, making women wonder if they can still wear our European clothing...making women wonder if they should be out alone in the streets after dark at all.
Far right wing groups have now frighteningly and predictably started to take things into their own hands. This is a disgrace but there is a reason for it. The mainstream political parties left a vacuum. The mainstream did not talk about this. The mainstream tried to hide it away.
It's not surprising, when one considers how wishy washy too many of our elected European representatives have been about this scourge of men from camps attacking women brazenly in the streets, train stations and even the swimming pools of Europe.
The question has to be asked again and again.
Why have our mainstream political parties, right and left... created a vacuum for these extreme right wing groups to fill?
And we must also reiterate as Europeans and as women.
Our solidarity with genuine refugees fleeing war is part of what makes our European civilization one that attracts refugees. We should be proud of extending a helping hand. There is an obvious caveat though.
When European politicians tell refugees to come to their country do they also say?
Genuine refugees are welcome via shared quotas as agreed. However you are only welcome if you fully respect women as equals, gays as equals, Jews as equals. If you do not agree with these basic rules then kindly stay away. It needs to be said and reiterated. A huge disservice is being perpetrated to the women of Europe and to many others if our elected political leaders don't make things clear from the outset and have action plans in place to reinforce this.
Are our political leaders scared to do this in Europe? Integrating, if you even want to integrate, is not just about learning the language or learning about the history of a country. It's about accepting our basic human values and human rights. Can we let people in who do not believe women are equal to men?
Pretty simple isn't it!
Why were these attacks, which started on Muslim women, after all, not headline news? Why are attacks on women not given the huge importance they should be, whatever the color, the religion, culture of women victims?
Why are the mainstream political parties afraid to identify and label the problem? You have to know who your enemy is if you have the slightest chance of ever removing his ability to harm you. In this case kindly excuse my "his "but in the context of the refugee crisis so far this is almost exclusively about men attacking women.
And let's stop being afraid of saying things as they are.
If we say this terrorism on women is being carried out exclusively by men it is not a slur on all men.
If we say this terrorism on women is mainly being carried out by men who claim to be refugees it is not a slur on genuine refugees.
If we say these attacks are mainly being carried out by people who claim to be Muslim it is no slur on other Muslims.
Moreover, we don't stop this brutality against women by not going out late in the evening, by not going to our local swimming pool, by not dressing as we always have, by not drinking alcohol...nor by being afraid to identify which religion these often younger men claim to be practicing.
Of course we European women do not want the extremist far right groups to defend us.
We want and rightfully expect our political leaders, which has been so self absorbed they did not see the Cologne and other attacks coming, to have prevented this happening and to prevent it happening again. To defend us unequivocally.
Instead we have trite comments that there is no link between the refugee crisis and the attacks on Cologne and other attacks throughout Europe! Never before have the European mainstream political parties appeared so oblivious to the genuine sentiments of European women.
Half the voters of Europe no less.
The political leaders of Europe needs to wake up. There is a climate of fear growing and women are especially fearful, precisely because we do not see the men and women, the women and men we elect to serve us tackling this issue with enough conviction.
That is why the extremist far right has filled the vacuum. Europe's political parties -the right, the left, the liberals, the greens- all of them need to do far far more than they are doing. Clumsy courses showing pictures of a woman dressed in an attractive way and a stop sign meaning do not touch is not the answer.
Identifying those men who want to intimidate women with impunity is as important as searching out trained jihadist. This too must also be the responsibility of the police and intelligence services. If attacks on hundreds of women in one night in Cologne is not terrorism then what is?
We must vet refugee men in camps not only for being jihadists but also for having attitudes incompatible with our way of life in Europe. It's embarrassing that this still needs to be demanded in the twenty first century but it is essential.
We clearly have not yet been learned the lessons of recent European history. The sudden rise in attacks against women in Europe, which is a direct result of the genuine refugee crisis, cannot be ignored or treated with half-baked measures.
The Pastor already warned us. We stick together and defend the weakest with all our might or the forces of evil will win. Our way of life is sacred to us...the women of Europe. We are your mothers, your daughters, your sisters, your aunts and your grandmothers...and half the voters.
Protect half your voters from terrorists who want to change our way of life.
Remember, first they came for the women.


Ms. Marisa Micallef is the former Ambassador of the Republic of Malta to the United States. She currently resides in London. She can be reached at m_micallef@sky.com. Despite the common surname, she is not related to me. JVM

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