It is definitely not how Austrians wanted to begin the New Year.
In a bloody start to 2019, four women have been brutally murdered in the peaceful Alpine nation of almost 9 million people in just over two weeks, shaking the country to its core.
With an additional two murders of women committed last December, the tally of this “femicide,” as it is being termed, stands at six in a little over five weeks. (There have been no male murder victims.) And this in a country with the very low murder rate of only .66 per 100,000 people! (The United States, by contrast, has 5.35)
What is conspicuous to Austrians about these terrible tragedies is that all the women-killers, except one, are not native Austrians. (Non-Austrians are only 15 per cent of the population.) Another visible factor is most murders were committed by partners or ex-partners of women who were about to leave, or had left, relationships with their killers.
“It is striking that many foreigners and asylum seekers are found over proportionally among the suspects. That suggests that this group is particularly misogynistic and patriarchist oriented,” said social scientist Birgitt Haller of the Institute for Conflict Research in Vienna.
Police concur. They report that sometimes when called to a migrant home where the husband is physically abusing his wife: “Then he doesn’t understand at all why he is not allowed to hit his wife and why he has to leave the apartment.”
Vice-Chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache of the ruling conservative Freedom Party of Austria (FPO), horrified by the killings, says the fact most of the criminals have a migrant background “is not permitted to be withheld.”
“That is why it would be completely false to speak of an increase in violence among Austrians,” Strache said.
Unfortunately for the people in the land of the edelweiss, and especially for women, it does not appear conditions are going to soon improve. In fact, Austrians can only expect them to get worse, as murder rate statistics indicate. There were 40 murders in Austria in 2015, 17 of them women (42.5%). This increased to 49 in 2016, 28 of them women (57.1%), and again to 62 in 2017, with 36 being women (58%).
Last year, there were 74 murders in Austria, including 44 (60%) women, a new record. But the growing number of murders also matches the general upward trend in crime in the county. Knife attacks, for example, have gone up 300 per percent in the last ten years.
It is the number of female murder victims, however, that distinguishes Austria. In seven of the last ten years, more women have been murdered than men, in two years the numbers were even and only one saw more men killed than women. As well, there are only three countries in Europe where more women are killed: Iceland, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
But bare statistics do not convey the beauty of the lives extinguished, two of whom were only 16, the despicableness of their killers and the horror of their crimes.
The first victim was one of the 16-year-olds, Michelle, a native Austrian living in Steyr. Her 17 year-old Afghan ex-boyfriend, Saber, murdered her last December 9. He had come to Austria two years earlier as an underage asylum seeker and lived in a hostel for underage migrants.
Saber was described as controlling and forbid Michelle contact with other boys. She broke up with him, however, when she discovered he had another girlfriend. In what may have been an attempted reconciliation, Saber was visiting Michelle in her room when he stabbed her to death.
To escape immediate discovery, Saber then barricaded the bedroom door with a chest, fleeing out the window, leaving Michelle dying on her bed under a pile of laundry. Michelle’s mother and sister made the horrifying discovery only hours later.
Saber had apparently admitted to Michelle’s brother he had killed a person back in Afghanistan. If confirmed, he can’t be deported, however, since that country has the death penalty. Ironically, as an underage teenager, the most jail time Saber will get in Austria in exchange for Michelle’s precious, young life is fifteen years.
The next murder occurred on Christmas Eve in Vienna. A man, originally from India, drowned his wife in the bath tub. Then he took a pair of scissors and cut her forearms to make it look like suicide. “Raging jealousy” was the apparent motive.
The third occurred January 8 in Amstetten. A Turk stabbed his wife 38 times in front of their three children on the street. She had intended to leave him. The man was known as an Islamic fundamentalist and was in the sights of the intelligence service. He would try to convert people and go around lecturing smoking women. At Christmas markets, he would knock ‘gluhwein’, a traditional mulled wine drink, out of people’s hands, saying the drinks were “un-Islamic.” He also had had 30 complaints made against him concerning disturbing the peace, but police could not act because he was not violent.
The fourth female murder occurred the same day. An unemployed, native Austrian man, described as “eccentric,” stabbed his ex-girlfriend to death in front of her apartment building, striking her six times.
The fifth murder witnessed the death of the second 16-year-old, Manuela, on January 13. Her ex-boyfriend, a 19-year-old Syrian asylum seeker, Yazan, strangled her to death in a park, covering her body afterwards with leaves and branches. Manuela’s mother, worried when her daughter did not return home, discovered her lifeless form when looking for her. Yazan had already been in trouble with police “many times” and had two convictions.
The last murder occurred on January 15 when an Ethiopian man stabbed his sister to death in Vienna’s main train station. The sister had come from London to save him from the drug scene he had fallen into. After an argument in the ticket hall, the man fled to a lower level, his sister following. He then turned and stabbed her. The man was suffering from a broken relationship, in which he felt the woman had treated him badly.
The former socialist government, who allowed the migrant wave into Austria in 2015, is being heavily blamed for the women murders. Strache holds all those who initially cheered the then unregulated, massive influx, and, more specifically, the former SPO (Socialist Party of Austria) chancellor, Werner Faymann, directly responsible.
Roman Haider of the FPO’s national council speaks of the SPO’s 2015 “welcoming culture” as “completely false,” saying “these crimes against our women and children are to be attributed” to it.
“Where the journey of the SPO welcome train is heading, one can experience almost daily now in the media,” he said. “The senior conductor and short-time chancellor opened the borders and led the migrants right across our country at the expense of the taxpayer, unregistered and uncontrolled, as well noted.”