Atika Shubert, Nadine Schmidt and Judith Vonberg, CNN International, September 14, 2017
Police identified the attackers as two locally known Muslim extremists. They were never arrested and later fled to Syria. After demanding answers from local prosecutors and the mayor’s office and not getting a response, Karsten turned to Germany’s far right party, the Alternative for Germany (AfD).
“I don’t like everything they say,” Karsten says, “but this is too dangerous for gay people to live openly here, if we get attacked like that. We need a party that’s talking openly about this.”
The anti-immigration, anti-same-sex marriage party
Weidel, an openly gay woman, was brought into the AfD as a moderating voice.
Campaigning on a vociferously anti-immigration platform, the four-year-old AfD party now has seats in 13 of the country’s 16 state parliaments. It has proposed a ban on mosque minarets and cutbacks on migration, from within the European Union and beyond, while its party manifesto says that “Islam does not belong in Germany.”
Germans vote in national elections this month, and the AfD is contesting them for the first time. The party is polling around 9% in recent days, which could put it in contention for third or fourth place, well behind Chancellor Angela Merkel’s center-right Christian Democrats and the center-left Social Democrats, who have ruled out entering into a coalition with the AfD.
In some ways, the AfD is an unlikely place for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) voters. The party has threatened to sue the government for allowing the recent vote to legalize same-sex marriage, and the AfD manifesto advocates the “traditional family as a guiding principle.”
Yet one of the AfD’s top candidates, Alice Weidel, is an openly gay woman raising children with her partner. Weidel, an economist, was brought in as the softer, moderating face of the party, but her campaign speeches show she can deliver an angry rant on immigration as well as her AfD peers.
“Merkel’s refugee policy will destroy our welfare state of the Federal Republic of Germany!” she said in a recent campaign post. “We, as AfD, will make sure that this comes to an end. Because open borders do not work with a sustainable social state.”
An untapped source of votes?
Tassis was the one who answered Karsten’s email for help after he and his partner were attacked. Within three hours of reading it, Tassis met the couple in a downtown Bremen cafe and connected them with a lawyer, encouraging them to sue the local prosecutor, something the pair are looking into.
“Cases like Karsten’s or similar cases have unfortunately happened in Bremen amongst citizens before,” Tassis says. “This case was particularly dramatic. Every citizen has a right to be heard, every citizen needs an ear and this is what I did In Karsten’s case.”
That swift response turned Karsten from someone who used to vote for the left-wing Green Party into an AfD supporter.
“It has nothing to do with being a Nazi or being totally right. I’m not against every foreigner. And I’m not against every Muslim. But I’m against the criminals,” Karsten explains. “This was the only way we could get some help. Because the other parties didn’t care.”