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Middle East’s Paradigm Shift: Rape is No Longer Accepted Here

24 March 2011 9 Comments

Yvette Nahmia-Messinas

Yvette Nahmia-Messinas

“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).

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9 Comments to “Middle East’s Paradigm Shift: Rape is No Longer Accepted Here”
  1. Dear Yvette.

    I am so proud of the work you are doing. I wish we could live closer to each other as we did before, on Aegina.

    I still miss Greece with an inconsolable longing!



  2. Ada Aharoni says:

    Dear Yvette,

    Your piece on “Middle East’s Paradigm Shift: Rape is No Longer Accepted Here,” is well written and reported. Unfortunately, not only monarchs are raping women but also the liberal men of Midan El Tahrir who raped the American tourist.
    Let’s hope that your optimistic view of a more liberal Middle East will indeed ensue after the popular upheavals in most of the Arab countries, and that the fanatic “Brotherhood”, that murdered President Sadat, and who are the most organized group in Egypt and in some of the other countries – don’t take the lead. It would be the worst thing that can happen to women – and it could end in forcing them into Burkas!
    Dr. Ada Aharoni
    IFLAC Founder – President

  3. irit says:

    Hi Yvette,
    I enjoy to read you here.
    I like the analogy you’ve between rape and using political power to abuse people. Indeed it is quite the same.
    Thank you.

  4. Keren Yaniv says:

    Dear Yvette,
    Good for you! very well written. Waiting for the change to be more eviden. Ελπίζουμε!

  5. Keren Yaniv says:

    Dear Yvette,
    Good for you! very well written. Waiting for the change to be more evident… Ελπίζουμε!

  6. Dear Frances,

    You are one of those women who enriched my women’s education, learning with you on the island of Aegina was fun and deep at the same time…I go back to the island often to reconnect and fill up my batteries …much love, Yvette

    Dear Ada, Irit and Keren thank you for your comments,
    Ada, I agree with you. Today I signed a petition to stop the abuse towards women, perpetrated in Egypt to women who raise their voice against the situation.

    A rape is a rape is a rape whether it is committed by liberals or conservatives. I am also worried about the future in our region but believe that the only way to ensure a better future is to be active towards bringing it about. I strongly feel that women need to take the lead now, and lead the world to a peaceful, cooperative, sustainable, women and child loving place.

    I applaud all women in the Middle East who bring about that future through their actions and deeds.


    You may be interested in the above report on rape being used as a weapon of war in Libya, my friend Rahel brought it to my attention.

  8. [...] poet and writer Yvette Nahmia-Messinas acknowledged the problem of rape in the region in an article entitled “Middle East’s [...]

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