The police claim to have seen an IS flag during an operation against refugees. Now it turns out that the flag did not exist.
Police operation in Suhl in front of the initial reception facility for refugees on March 17 Photo: Wichmann TV/dpa
A bizarre sight: Last Tuesday, around 150 officers*, some in medical protective suits, arrived in front of the refugee accommodation in Suhl. They were supposed to put an end to the unrest in the shelter, which had begun after a quarantine was ordered for all residents following the first cases of Corona. In the course of the operation, however, the Suhl police spread false news, as has now become clear. Based on this, right-wingers started a hate campaign against refugees on the Internet.
Since it became known that a resident of the initial reception facility had become infected with the coronavirus, a quarantine was in place for all 533 residents*. As a result, there were "expressions of displeasure about the necessary restrictions and attempted quarantine breaches" at the facility, police said in a press release Tuesday.
According to the release, the "endangering behavior" came from a group of people known by name. They were the target of the police operation. The 22 fugitives were taken to the empty youth detention center in Arnstadt. There were no "major incidents".
The Suhl police chief Wolfgang Nicolai described the operation at a press conference on Tuesday, adding explosive details. According to the report, about "about 30 young men, mainly from Georgia and the Maghreb countries" gathered in front of the main gate of the shelter, who "while showing an IS flag" tried to overcome the gate and "displayed a very aggressive mood."
Islamist symbols? It’s a bit more complicated
In the process, children in particular were posted in the front row and "used as protection for their actions," the police chief said. A second press release also said that the men in question displayed Islamist symbols.
Afterwards, however, the police denied that an IS flag, or any flag at all, was held aloft. The tip-off was only given to the police shortly before the press conference by an uninvolved witness, the Suhl police department told taz. To prevent speculation, the information was communicated at the same time at the press conference. However, the truth of the information was not verified until afterwards.
The "Islamist symbols" – which did indeed exist – were a "greeting sign also used by Islamists," as the Thuringia police announced on Twitter two days later. A spokeswoman for the police explained that they were referring to the tauhid finger that some of the men had shown.
In Islam, however, the upwardly extended index finger symbolizes first of all the belief in the unity of God, and the hand sign is also used by non-fundamentalist Muslims, for example when confessing faith. Even if the gesture was temporarily "hijacked" by IS: Showing it is neither punishable nor forbidden.
The AfD also incites with
The false reports of the police come just in time for some: The spokesman for the far-right Identitarian Movement Austria, Martin Sellner, comments on his YouTube channel on a clip of the press conference: "Armed with an IS flag, with children in the front row, the refugees run against the police." Sellner shows video clips from the Greek border to illustrate the already denied information. There is no corresponding footage from Suhl.
The previously convicted rocker and former police officer Tim Kellner also refers to the refuted statements of the Suhl police chief on Youtube. The video, entitled "Unbelievable – The Battle of Suhl!" already has more than 130,000 views. Kellner is one of the most influential right-wing Youtubers.
There are numerous such excerpts of the press conference floating around on Youtube. Gottfried Curio, the AfD’s domestic policy spokesman, also uploaded the video excerpt, along with false reports, to his YouTube channel.
The right-wing conservative weekly Junge Freiheit and the online newspaper Tichys Einblick wrote of "rioters with IS flags". According to Zeit Online, even the news portal Web.de headlined "Asylum seekers attack police officers and staff," but changed the headline afterwards.
A glance at the comment columns is enough to see how such misinformation can play into the hands of right-wingers in their agitation against refugees: "Wouldn’t it make more sense to quarantine IS sympathizers where they come from? What do such subjects have to do in Germany?", writes one user.