In March 2018, now 43-year-old Berliner Maria S. was brutally beaten by a Syrian refugee. While the man was provided mental health care by German authorities, the victim was left alone dealing with post-traumatic stress disorder caused by the attack. Following a decision by prosecutors to stop the case from going to court, she has shared her personal story with German news outlet Junge Freiheit.
After two years from the attack, it is still difficult for Maria S., whose name was changed to protect her privacy, to talk about the moment that tore her life apart.
“Four weeks ago, I received a letter from my lawyer saying that the investigation was closed,“ she said with a mixture of bewilderment, disappointment, and anger.
Maria S. says her nightmare began on March 2, 2018, when she was walking her dog shortly after 9:00 p.m. when she saw a bearded man staring at her in a threatening manner.
She tried to evade him but the man suddenly kicked her dog and then took an empty beer bottle from his jacket pocket and began beating her. She held up her hands protectively in front of her face and turned her body away from him as he continued to strike her, causing her falling to the ground, resulting in a laceration to the back of her head.
A neighbor arrived after hearing her scream, leading the man to flee to the asylum center nearby.
The police found the attacker there a short time later, and video recordings show him entering the house shortly after the crime.
Maria S. was not the only victim
The Syrian man who beat Maria S. went on a rampage that night, and just a few minutes before the attack on her, the asylum seeker attacked an almost 60-year-old dog owner in a nearby park. Police say he pushed her to the ground and kicked the dog. Like Maria S., this victim was beaten so badly that she required medical treatment afterward.
The perpetrator was identified as Syrian migrant Raghed A., a migrant born in 1996 in a city in the southwest of Syria. He fled the war in his home country and came to Germany at the end of 2015, the year in which the federal government allowed hundreds of thousands of asylum seekers to enter the country.
Raghed A. was housed in a refugee shelter in Hamburg. His mother was already living in France at that time. After visiting her at the beginning of 2017, a doctor diagnosed him with a “youth crisis”, “post-traumatic shock” who was suffering from “social isolation”.
“Raghed is currently suffering and has outbreaks of violence, especially when he is outside trying to communicate with people and with his mother,“ the doctor wrote.
Because of Raghed’s mental illness, the Berlin public prosecutor’s office decided to close the investigation into dangerous bodily harm in both cases.
“According to an existing medical report, it cannot be ruled out that the accused was not sane at the time of the offense so that a punishment is not legally possible,” the prosecutor wrote.
The Berlin public prosecutor’s office confirmed the termination of the investigation at the request of Junge Freiheit. The authorities could not say what residence status Raghed A. had at the time of the crime.
‘The state has failed me’
“I’m madly angry with the state for how they treated me. The perpetrator was immediately admitted to the psychiatric hospital, he was helped, he is now walking around freely again and no one has asked a single time about me,“ the victim said.
“The state has failed me and left me completely alone with the consequences of its asylum policy failure,“ she added.
While Raghed A. was released, Maria S. struggled with the psychological consequences of the attack.
“Everything has changed; my whole life,” she said.
Before the assault, Maria S. worked in the service industry at a prestigious hotel in Berlin’s Mitte neighborhood, but then lost her job because she no longer dared to go on the train at night. She said she was also no longer able to deal with the Arab guests in the same manner as before.
“I couldn’t do any other jobs because of the psychological strain,” said the Berlin woman. “I was completely torn away from my old life.”
In addition to the constant anxiety attacks and lack of sleep, there was also the feeling of insignificance. “You have the feeling that as a person you are worthless when someone can just attack you in the middle of the street and destroy your life.”
When she realized that things couldn’t go on, she sought professional help. But the only goal of the therapist was to prepare her for a possible trial, which never happened.
In addition to the psychological and social problems, there were also financial ones after she became unemployed.
“All of this affects the psyche so much,” she said. The job center asked her to leave her apartment, for which she had worked hard in the past – it was too big and too expensive.”
She also had to use up some of her savings at the time.
Consequently, she was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and sent to trauma therapy in a day clinic. That was at the end of 2019, almost two years after the attack. During all this time, no authority reached out to her or offered any aid.
She also said that she had never felt unsafe until the attack. Even after Germany’s decision to de facto open its border five years ago, she did not give any thought to the issue of mass migration.
“I always thought it was all so far away, you only read about it in the newspaper or see it on the news, it happens to others, not to me,” Maria S. told Junge Freiheit.
“I don’t know why those up there don’t notice how people like me are doing, who were confronted directly with the consequences of the wave of refugees. But that has to change. The state must take into account the state of us victims and give us a reasonable period to get life back on track,” she concluded.
Title image: German Chancellor Angela Merkel, attends the opening of a memorial site in Berlin, Germany, Tuesday, Dec. 19, 2017 to honor the victims of the Christmas market terrorist attack on the Breitscheid square at the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church one year ago. 12 people were killed and dozens injured when an attacker drove a truck into the market. (Maurizio Gambarini/dpa via AP)