Middle East’s Paradigm Shift: Rape is No Longer Accepted Here
“Women and men of the Middle East condemn the rape of our bodies, the rape of our dignity and freedoms.”
Former President of Israel Moshe Katsav was sentenced to seven years by the Tel Aviv District Court on March 22nd for two counts of rape and other sexual offenses against female employees. Once enjoying public acclaim and attention at the top of Israeli society, Katsav is now to enter prison in May.
What Katsav did on an individual level—forcing his body on his victims—is perpetrated by other male monarchs, despots, kings, and rulers in the region who force themselves and their rule on their people. A similar downfall awaits those Middle East rulers who reign by might—“raping” societies of the freedom to choose their governing bodies.
With a rape verdict handed down to former President Katsav, Israel is saying, “Enough is enough” to the old system of abusing power. Likewise among young, liberal Middle Easterners there is a refreshing, liberating sensation: “Change is possible. Let us bring it about.”
Egypt, Syria, Iran, and Saudi Arabia are facing inner turmoil and upheaval. The old regimes are resisting collapse, while a new balance of power is slowly emerging. The old paradigm of the “strongest wins” is dying out, while a new paradigm of “let us cooperate to bring forth a massive change” is rising.
Women and men throughout the Middle East are no longer accepting the abhorrence, abomination, and repugnance caused by abuse of power. The common aspiration of young Middle Easterners—from Jerusalem, Cairo, Amman, Damascus, Beirut, Baghdad, Kuwait, Tehran, and Abu Dhabi—is to create societies governed not by might but by merit. There is the desire for societies where women will count and be respected, have a voice and be heard; where women are free to marry the man they choose, to get an education, to pursue a career, to own property, and to get divorced upon their will.
Women are collectively saying: We are not man’s property. And men and women are asserting: We are no ruler’s, king’s, or dictator’s property.
In Egypt, young men and women came together, united by their will for a dignified society where their voices and choices would matter. Determination, perseverance, and unity combined with peaceful methods to overturn a ruler. The spirit of brotherhood and social cohesion that characterized Tahrir Square is now sweeping the region.
Young men and women throughout the Middle East are coming together united by shared values of freedom, choice, and democracy. One’s religion and ethnic affiliation are now secondary, replaced by shared values of human rights and human dignity.
Women and men of the Middle East condemn the rape of our bodies, the rape of our dignity and freedoms. We join hands in taking the violent perpetrators down and in working towards co-creating a paradigm shift in the Middle East that we love.
Yvette Nahmia-Messinas is the author of the collection of poems They All Sound Like Love Songs, Women Healing Israeli-Palestinian Relations (Ktav publishing house).