German salon gets online abuse over Syrian barber

Xenophobes criticise hairdresser branch over barber who cannot cut women’s hair

The sign in the window of a hairdresser’s shop in Zwickau, eastern Germany, that sparked abuse and calls to boycott the salon.

The sign in the window of a hairdresser’s shop in Zwickau, eastern Germany, that sparked abuse and calls to boycott the salon.

 

A progressive German hairdresser has been hit with a tidal wave of abuse after a window sign in one branch, involving an asylum seeker, went viral online.

A branch of the hairdresser chain in the eastern city of Zwickau, three hours south of Berlin, put a notice in its shopping centre store informing customers about limits to service for a week until July 15th.

“For personnel reasons, we cannot serve women customers,” the hand-written notice read. “In this period we will have a Syrian barber in the salon who only serves men. Many thanks for your understanding.”

A picture of the notice in the window found its way online, sparking a tidal wave of abuse and calls to boycott the salon.

“Perhaps they want to avoid that the scissors slips: wash, dry, finish off,” wrote one Facebook user. Another: “I think I’d better come round with my baton . . . better that than he rapes all the women customers.” And a third: “Careful he doesn’t cut your throat. When you can’t speak German it can lead to misunderstandings.”

As the online abuse grew, managers of the salon posted a message online in a bid to clarify the confusing message. The Syrian barber had been employed as temporary cover in the afternoons, they wrote, because of an ongoing personnel problem in the branch. The Syrian man’s refusal to cut women’s hair was simply down to the fact that he has no training, they added.

Badly worded

The managers acknowledged the sign was badly worded but criticised the online mob attack on their shop.

“We wish to contradict forcefully the presumptions of religious-motivated discrimination,” added the managers of the chain, with 900 branches across Germany. “[We] employ many people from many countries, something of which we are very proud.”

Local media in Zwickau reported the salon had been bombarded with threatening phone calls and that the Syrian barber now refuses to work alone there.

The history of xenophobia in eastern German cities is long, from a fire at asylum-seeker accommodation in Rostock in 1992 to last year in Clausnitz, when a mob attacked a bus containing asylum seekers, shouting: “Go home!”

Parallel to a spike in online racist attacks, official German statistics register a jump in attacks on asylum-seeker accommodation from 117 in 2014 to 1,081 in 2015 following the arrival of almost one million people. Some 988 attacks on asylum homes were registered last year, even as new arrivals to Germany slowed.