The Hague City

For the past few weeks, the The Hague-based swimming pool Zwembad Zuiderpark has been at the centre of yet another bi-cultural controversy. In a lengthy letter published on April 20 (partly quoted below) a group of staff members sounded the alarm over “Gangs of Turkish and Moroccan youths” sexually assaulting non-Muslim girls, threatening and assaulting staff members and committing theft as well as destruction of property.

The ordeal followed the predictable pattern, with the establishment being in denial, social workers blaming the “culture of the pool or sports club” and Muslim front groups sewing the pool’s staff for racism.

The city council denied the severity of the problem. Municipal Councillor Rabin Baldewsingh (Labour Party), said on that same day that he “rejects the content of the letter written by Zuiderparkbad’s staff“:

“It’s an anonymous letter, which might encourage one to say things that aren’t true. (…) Let’s not make this any bigger than it is. Do you know what’s happening at soccer fields? It might not be sexual assaults, but there’s a lot going on that’s not being registered.”

Also on April 20, a spokesperson of the Rutgersstichting, the country’s foundation for sexual education, basically said the pool itself was to blame.

“Expert” Marianne Cense, claims that:

“The problem usually resides with the culture of a sports club or swimming pool. A sort of ambience of “everything goes”, with the rules being very unclear, boys often don’t know what rules to abide and which sanctions they face if they cross the line. (…) It’s not a problem of one specific cultural group.

Of course, this 1970’s mentality applied to a highly patriarchal tribal culture will not get anyone anywhere. And no matter how many times institutions tell themselves this is not a problem of a specific cultural group, the facts show over and over again, it clearly is.

Below are the most important excerpts from the Zuiderparkbad‘s staff’s alarm letter:

“Below is a short sketch of the abysmal situation in the pools of The Hague City, relating to visitors from a foreign background.

This concerns their attitude, behaviour and their lack of respect, which manifested itself since the opening in 2000. The vast majority of problems involve youths from a Muslim background.

They dominate and own the pool in such a way that severely hinders other visitors and staff.

Many native vistors now choose to stay away. (…) Many of the (serious) incidents are simply left unreported or are intentionally held back by the City Council.

(…) A list of examples from the field: Especially in the weekends and holidays the pool (now jokingly referred to as “Islama-bad”) is frequently visited by North-African boys. Daily police assistance is required to maintain order by evicting and arresting them.

Incidents vary from theft to destruction of property, sexual assaults, (sometimes serious) violent assaults and threats. What stands out during these instances is that the pool is almost exclusively filled with boys from a Moroccan or Turkish background.

Young girls (and especially our Dutch girls) are no longer safe during the free lane and recreational hours.

And if they still show up, the staff warns them not to dress too provocatively and to avoid the water ride and whirlpool, purely because the chance of being sexually assaulted there is too great. This happens on a weekly basis!

What stands out is that the afore mentioned youths leave their own girls alone (if they’re allowed to swim anyway). There’s a double standard.

On a weekly basis hunderds, sometimes thousands of euro’s worth of materials are destroyed by this group. This varies from the changing rooms to doors, windows, grafitti and so on.

(…) Often they gain entrance to the pool using their “Ooievaarspas”, which practically makes it a free ride.

This “Ooievaarspas” system was created by the City of The Hague to open up activities to those less fortunate. But for years now, this system is being abused by these groups who also have criminal revenue and sometimes pull up in very expensive cars and dress in the most expensive clothing, but still they use their extreme “Ooievaarspas” discount when they check in.

During the past sixteen years, many staff members have been threatenend but have also been verbally and physically abused. This varies from throwing rocks at the staff’s bike stand to instances where this Muslim scum was waiting on colleagues after closing time to beat them up.

On a daily basis, female colleagues are being called names like “cancer whore” and are being intimidated and spat on. Especially when large groups of Muslim youths are present. The incidents are so extreme and out of proportion, one almost thinks one is in a war zone.

During the past years many colleagues became unable to work, some never returned due to psychological complaints.

It is abundantly clear that many foreign youths from a Muslim background have no boundaries whatsoever and show no respect for their fellow countrymen, especially for the native visitors.

Their language is also of a distinctly religious nature. During the autumn holiday there was a group of about 20 Moroccans between 8 and 15 years old who loudly and repeatedly yelled “Allah Akhbar”.

This happened in a highly intimidating, dominant and aggressive fashion, which scared other visitors away from their area.

Often, the parents or family members show up to intimidate the staff when their child has been removed for theft, intimidation or assaults.

The authoritiy of the police and staff is missing in its entirety!”

Six days after the publication, councillor Baldewsingh announced that although he still thinks the severity is overrated, six new measures will be implemented:

  • Security personnel will now have a permanent presence.
  • Inappropriate behaviour will not be tolerated. In close cooperation with the police and staff members, clear boundaries will be upheld and transgressions will be acted upon immediately.
  • There will be multiple infographics listing the rules.
  • Video surveillance will be intensified in order to better register offenders.
  • There will be an identity check at the gate for everyone aged above 14.
  • On Saturdays, Sundays and during holidays, extra staff will be deployed to maintain order.

Well, the moral of the story? Swimming over ethnocultural fault lines has a price tag. Long story, right? Time for some music.