Germany – much like other European countries – is struggling to cope with the influx of refugees after Chancellor Angela Merkel said the country would open its doors to Syrian asylum seekers. Though most citizens welcomed the refugees with open arms, the chancellor’s stance also provoked a backlash among her conservative allies and sparked protests among the far right.
The hostile reaction reached new heights with a stabbing in the western city of Cologne, where a mayoral candidate known for her services to integrate refugees into the society was assaulted on the campaign trail.
Henriette Reker was campaigning in an open-air market ahead of the election day, handing out roses to pedestrians, when a middle-aged man approached her and asked for a flower.
When the independent candidate tried to give him one, he pulled out a knife and stabbed her in the neck. The 44-year-old suspect also injured four others, and cited Reker’s liberal policies on immigration as the reason for his assault.
Reker, who serves as the head of Cologne’s social affairs and integration department, sustained serious wounds in the attack. However, that did not stop her from winning the race and becoming the first female mayor of the western city.
The 58-year-old lawyer won 52.7 percent of the vote, while rival Jochen Ott of the Social Democrats came in second with 32 percent. Though Reker was running independently, Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling Christian Democrats party supported her.
Thankfully, the new mayor is also expected to make a full recovery after going through a number of surgeries.
The attack, which occurred in a German city that prides itself on diversity and tolerance, sparked nationwide fury. Merkel expressed her shock at the incident, and police call the assault was a “racist” and “political” act.
Reker runs refugee services in fourth-largest city of Germany, and she has housed thousands of asylums seekers from Syria and Middle East in sports halls, former commercial spaces and other sites. She has even called for a greater level of help by proposing social integration.
Hopefully, with her new position, she will be able to take better measures for the displaced people.
Meanwhile, the unnamed suspect faces charges of attempted murder and causing grievous bodily harm after a psychiatric examination indicated he can be held criminally responsible.