FEMFACTS
27 May 2019

White men never assault women, according to right-wing Swiss media

When does a right-wing online publication care about victims of violence? When the perpetrator is a Muslim migrant or a man of color, of course.

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White men never assault women, according to right-wing Swiss media - NewsMavens
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Most of the content of website LesObservateurs.ch ("The Observers") is made up of "news flash" -- pieces of information copy-pasted from other media and like-minded platforms and tabloïds. The few contents labelled as "articles" contain comments from their authors who are often anonymous. Most of the topics are about other European countries, with very few focusing on Switzerland itself.  

One of the latest articles which deals with violence against women and girls in Switzerland, dates back to April 27 and is about the opening of a trial against the Erythrean-born parents of an 8-year-old girl who died last year of an infection.

WHAT IS THE CLAIM?

The article headline reads:

"Bern: An Eritrean refugee tortures his eight-year-old daughter to death"

However, most of the content is not about the case itself -- it is a commentary starting with "ndlr", meaning "editor's note", about another case dating back to the 1990s. The anonymous author of the post claims that back then, a Somalian family, who had fled to Switzerland and obtained asylum to live in the city of Vaud, were accused of mistreating a young girl who, as it was later discovered, was not their daughter.

"One of the girls, barely pubescent, was showing signs of abuse and, after thorough examinations, the medical team discovered something that stunned the public. The young girl was, in fact, the family’s slave, and she had endured rapes since she was five, rapes that were part of her role as a slave", the author writes.

The author then moves on from the violence against the young girl to attack every migrant looking for asylum in his country:

“Firstly, large families from these regions are neither poor nor politicized, they come to Switzerland to enjoy a free life from A to Z: everything is given to them... These people are used to having girls as family slaves. These slaves come from poor families and are "bought" in exchange for a sum of money given to their parents. They do housework, serve the family, [including rights over her body] for the family members.

Switzerland did not perform genetic testing for these large families that would have determined whether all the children were truly their biological children.

On the other hand, all these families knew, before seeking asylum in Switzerland, that the more numerous they were, the more likely they would be to obtain asylum. Similar cases are found everywhere where the right to asylum has been as misguided as in Switzerland. Such scandals make small waves and then quickly fall back into oblivion.

The Swiss population is completely unaware of how unassimilable these refugees are, and how incapable of adaptation because of their cultural background and lack of training. No HONEST and COMPLETE assessment has been established, after forty years of hosting such populations... the result of such a study would be simply catastrophic. And these totally assisted populations, chronically assisted, still have many children.

And the faculties of human and social sciences each year produce "scientists" who will then lead research on "asylum", so we are sure that an honest study will NEVER see the light of day in Switzerland.”

WHAT ARE THE FACTS?

There is no link or data to support any of the claims made in this first two-thirds of the post. The rest are pieces of information copy-pasted from an article published two days earlier on 20min.ch, the website of a popular daily newspaper of the same name distributed in Switzerland by Tamédia, about the current trial in Bern.

"The news had made a lot of noise back in February 2018. An eight-year-old girl died at the hospital following an infection. But her body was covered in bruises. Since Wednesday, her parents have been on trial at the tribunal of Bern-Mittelland for abuse. The father, a forty-year-old Erythrean who fled his country three years earlier, stands accused of having abused his daughter for at least three months", the post reads.

The article on 20min.ch adds that it couldn't be proven that the abuse led to the death of the daughter, as the title of the post on LesObservateurs.ch implies.

LesObservateurs.ch has published a number of articles and news flashes about girls and women suffering at the hand of Muslims and migrants. The stories are plastered all over the French-speaking, right-wing Internet and occasionally from mainstream media such as 20min.ch. A search on the website with the keyword "women" brings up headlines such as:

"Women's position in German society? These migrants will shock you!"

"A women's rights activist shot dead in a street of Kabul"

"Germany wants to fight violence towards women with... a pamphlet!" (which is to be distributed to asylum seekers)

"Women are victims of the Islamization of France and [State secretary for gender equality Marlène] Schiappa remains silent!"

"He beats up a woman because she is white: 'I hate all German women'"

It seems, reading this website, that the only perpetrators of violence against women are migrants and Muslims.

However, any search on mainstream Swiss news websites paints a different picture. Reports of violence against women perpetrated by white, local men, present on those websites, never appear on "Les Observateurs". A search on 20min.ch, which the authors of LesObservateurs.ch seem to be reading, returns many articles on gender-based violence unrelated to migrants, yet Les Observateurs chooses  to report only on violent acts perpetrated by migrants.

For instance, a case of abuse, incest and sexual violence on children that happened in the same canton of Vaud where the story from the ‘90s is said to have happened, was widely covered with many articles by 20min and other Swiss media in 2018. It was completely ignored by Les Observateurs. The father, who sexually abused his children, for many years was not a migrant or a refugee.

In more recent examples, on April 24, 20min.ch published a story about the verdict against a man in the same city of Berne who claimed to be a photographer to attract women and then sexually assault them. They published the story about the trial that same day. Another article is about a German man who killed his wife and his son in a cave in Tenerife (Spain). Just a few days earlier, the media reported about the arrest of a Serbian man in Saint-Gall who is suspected of having murdered his partner. None of those stories has been picked by Les Observateurs. The only story showing up under a search for "Tenerife" is about a man from Morocco committing a crime. Results under "Saint-Gall" show only mentions of Islam, Burqa and non-white migrants.

Although the statistics on femicide (intentional killing of a woman for misogynous or gender-based reasons) is not disaggregated in Switzerland, according to the police, 25 women were killed in 2016 and 20 in 2017. That’s about one woman every two weeks. And in the vast majority of the cases (90% in 2017), the killer was an intimate partner or a family member. According to the Federal Office of Statistics, 70% of victims of physical and psychological violence who sought counselling in 2017 were women, while the suspected perpetrators were men in 87% of the cases.

Contrary to the image depicted by Les Observateurs, Swiss police’s data show that between 2009 and 2016, 51% of the perpetrators of homicide perptrated by an intimate partner (which includes current partners and ex-partners) are of Swiss nationality, only 4% are asylum seekers and 38% are foreigners with permanent residency.

There are no statistics available on the country of origin or the religion of the perpetrators of domestic violence and femicide specifically. However, the police’s statistics published in 2019 show that more Swiss people were accused of infraction of criminal laws (48%) than foreigners with permanent residency (31%) and refugees (4%). The nationalities most present among foreigners accused of infractions to criminal laws are by far: Italian, Portuguese, German and French. Out of 80,345 people arrested in 2018, only 412 (0.5%) were from Somalia, and 1,089 (1.4) were from Erythrea.  It is therefore impossible to affirm that Muslims and refugees are committing more domestic violence, rapes and femicides than Swiss or white, European citizens.

As for the accusations made against “fake” asylum seekers, especially from Somalia and Eritrea, official statistics provides, again, a different picture. According to the State Secretary for Migration, whose data was compiled in an article by the Swiss branch of Amnesty International, only 2% of the demands for asylum in Europe were made in Switzerland in 2016. Out of those demands, in the first instance, only 19.5% were granted asylum and 21.8% were granted a provisory admission.

As for the number of foreigners in Switzerland, in March 2019 around 70% of them were from the European Union and the European continent (especially the Balkans). Most of the permanent and non-permanent residents are from the EU. Somalis, for instance, represent a very small fraction of the people looking for asylum or protection in Switzerland and often receive only a temporary admission, making integration more difficult.

But regardless of these facts, a reader of Les Observateurs could easily be led to believe that 100% of reported crimes against women are committed by non-white or Muslim men.

WHO IS MAKING THESE CLAIMS?

The Swiss online platform Les Observateurs claims to inform its Swiss, French-speaking audience about what is really going on in the country. It has more than 80,000 likes on Facebook. "Support those who fight against one-track thinking and ideological conformism", the site invites. Its editor-in-chief Uli Windisch is a published sociologist and used to teach at the University of Geneva.

In his 2017 book "Switzerland Is Burning", whe  articles published on Les Observateurs are collected, the former professor claims to have created "a website of re-information against political correctness which tries to play the role of an ideological counter-balance to right-thinking and to journalistic leftist propaganda and disinformation". It is doing so mainly by tapping into the bottomless source that are online platforms propagating a far-right vision of the world and European tabloids. Ironically, it has also been caught copy-pasting entire articles from the same mainstream media it pretends to fight.

Les Observateurs is part of the wide network of far-right, French-speaking "re-information" websites obsessed with the alleged threat migrants and Islam represent for "European civilization". Among those websites, one can find the French Media-Presse Info, whose claims FemFacts has debunked in a previous article. The sources provided at the bottom of articles and newsflash published by Les Observateurs also take us to platforms like "Riposte Laïque", on which Les Observateurs is listed as a reference on Islam, and "Dreuz.info", a "website by French-speaking American Christians, Conservative and pro-Israel" which, among other things, calls Planned Parenthood "THE figure of the abortion industry".

In Amnesty International’s article about populist Swiss websites, Uli Windisch is quoted, commenting on the links between his website and this network, saying: "It is a global project, with the idea of really creating a current of political thought." For sociologist Thomas Jammet, who studied the website, this "circular propagation of information" has the effect of "augmenting the audience for the thesis published":

"The readers navigate from one website to another, finding the same type of explanation every time, which comforts them in the idea that they are right since there so many say so", he adds.

The result of this, when it comes to the question of violence against women and girls, is that readers become convinced that only Muslim migrants attack women in Europe.

CONCLUSION

The selection of information about violence against women clearly serves the goal of promoting a far-right, racist and Islamophobic agenda. Such misuse of the suffering of women at the hands of men to support a political narrative is a trivialization of the real issue of violence against women. A mix of anecdotal “evidence”, unsubstantiated claims and deliberate omission of any news where perpetrators of gender-based violence are white and/or non-Muslim men, amounts to manipulation of facts and represents biased reporting on this issue.

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