Rightist Violence Consuming German University Town
GREIFSWALD, Germany (AP) _ Foreign students tend to stick together these days in this university town and try to avoid nighttime outings.
Last week, Greifswald was gripped by four nights of riots after neo-Nazis beat up a Moroccan student, tried to attack foreign students’ dormitories and rioted outside a student nightclub.
The foreigners, joined by some hard-core German leftists, fought back in four nights of street rumbles. Many now fear that more trouble lies ahead in this Baltic coast town of 68,000 that has become the latest site of the formerly Communist region’s neo-Nazi troubles.
Abdul Malik Shuqaaldin, a 22-year-old student from Yemen, says he hopes he’ll be able to ″survive″ long enough to get his medical degree.
Hamid Louzaoui, a Moroccon student, says the violence has kept him from concentrating on his physics courses.
″We always have to be ready, in case the skinheads invade our dormitories. We’re just plain afraid,″ the 24-year-old Louzaoui says.
Many of the 4,600 foreign students at eastern German universities come from Arab and other predominantly Muslim countries once courted by the Communist government in East Berlin. Back then, the students had the reputation of being favored and sometimes arrogant.
Today, those in Greifswald are targets of hatred. This is a city where 40 percent of the work force is either unemployed or working short shifts, and some natives are looking for scapegoats.
Shuqaaldin, who attends Ernst Moritz Arndt University, has managed to avoid the street battles.
″They (the rightists) have beaten up several of us. They’ve repeatedly tried to attack our dormitories,″ he says. ″They just don’t understand that we’re not taking jobs away from them.″
Will he go on with the five more years of study needed to get his medical degree? Shuqaaldin replies, ″Yes, hopefully if I survive. You never know.″
He is among 309 foreigners enrolled at the prestigious school.
There has been no trouble from the 3,700 German students. Many support their foreign colleagues, and the student council has condemned the attacks against foreign students.
Abdoul el-Mahtouf, a 26-year-old engineering student from Morocco, pulled back his thick black hair to show an ugly scar he says was caused by an attack by a dozen roughnecks.
Mahtouf wants to pack up and head to western Germany to continue his studies, leaving behind what many Germans call ″the wild east.″
Small bands of young thugs roam the center of Greifswald, sometimes shouting at foreigners and harassing pedestrians.
A 16-year-old girl, identifying herself only as Nicole, says: ″We are against foreigners, they take away apartments and jobs.″
She and her 20-year-old friend Heiko proudly say they took part in the attempts to attack foreign students’ dormitories.
″The foreigners steal everything they can 3/8″ shouts Heiko, who sports tufts of blonde hair in the front and a shaven head in the back.
Heiko refused to give his last name.
At City Hall, Johannes Goerlich, the social services department chief, says he is worried that ″we have handed over the streets to troublemakers as though we’re paralyzed.″
Goerlich says the foreign students have their own violence-prone individuals but that he understands their fears.
In his view, German rightists are mostly young, disaffected young people manipulated by outside agitators.
″It’s an expression of the general social tension in the region. People are very unsure and they believe in easy slogans,″ Goerlich says.
Greifswald also has about 600 foreigners seeking political asylum, including Gypsies from Romania.
The local rightist extremists were attacking refugees in Greifswald before they targeted foreign students.