The Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi Center for Human Rights in Middle East is dedicated to advancing awareness about the human rights situation in the Middle East and the Muslim world at large. Named after Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi, a Jewish lady of the Renaissance who fought against the Spanish Inquisition and then rose to prominence in the Ottoman Empire, the center is dedicated to promoting women’s empowerment, feminism, human rights, pro-democracy movements, minority rights and general human welfare across the Middle East region and the Muslim world at large by raising awareness about these issues in the media and in social media.
According to Andree Aelion Brooks’ book titled “The Woman who defied kings: the Life and Times of Dona Gracia Nasi,” Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi enjoyed a status among the Jews of the Ottoman Empire that resembled that of a head of state: “Indeed, there is evidence that she may have attained an official position equal to a nasi in pre-expulsion Spain or earlier still in the time of the Sanhedrin, the governing body of the Jews during the biblical era. It was an astonishing feet for a woman, and even more so, for a former conversa. Contemporary Hebrew sources repeatedly refer to her during this period as the crowned or crowning lady. Samuel Usque, the converso writer, has likened her to Deborah, the great woman prophet and judge of ancient Israel.”
Just as Dona Gracia Mendes Nasi empowered the Jewish nation to hold onto their heritage and to flee persecution in Europe by going to the Ottoman Empire, where the Jews around that period of time were treated with dignity and respect, our center seeks to help minorities, women, pro-democracy activists and dissidents from Muslim majority countries to preserve their heritage, to reclaim the rights of their people and to stand up for justice within their societies.
“I have no doubt that if given a real choice, the vast majority of Muslims and Arabs like everyone else will chose a free society over a fear society.”—–Nathan Sharansky, Soviet dissident
“Stand up to hypocrisy. If you don’t, the hypocrites will teach. Stand up to ignorance, because if you don’t, the ignorant will run free to spread ignorance like a disease. Stand up for truth. If you don’t, then there is no truth to your existence. If you don’t stand up for all that is right, then understand that you are part of the reason why there is so much wrong in the world.”—-Suzy Kassem, American author, film director and poet
“We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”—–Elie Wiesel, Holocaust survivor and writer