There was a time when women were greatly appreciated in ancient civilisations; the women of Egypt became queens, held priestly positions, and had a right to inherit and own property.
The Temple of Queen Hatshepsut, which is an architectural miracle, echoes part of this saga, where a long list of queens like Cleopatra VII, Merritt Neet, Nefertiti, Tausert, and others had become part of our narrative in Luxor, where I was born.
I was reminded of the tales of Egypt’s ancient queens as I listened to President Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as he outlined the state’s strategy for human rights.
The story told by the president was not only about political rights or freedom of speech, but a comprehensive view of human development that benefited from the cumulative humanitarian values of Egyptians who etched their wisdom on their temple walls.
The need to focus on the sustainable development of our citizens is a by-product of all rights being interrelated.
As the president said, there is an intimate connection between democracy and human rights in the framework of a balance between individual rights and duties towards society.
The western concept of human rights might be different, especially in its focus on political rights, given that they have made greater strides in economic development and achieved an advanced level in several social aspects.
However, in the West, some still suffer from poverty, marginalisation, and racism, as echoed in the emergence of neo-Nazis, followed by their antithesis in the American black movement and other groups who oppose white supremacy.
Moreover, in some western states, women still suffer from some inequality and discrimination. It is rather surprising to know that the United States ranks first in women's exposure to rape and violence.
What has been said is not to defend violations of human rights in our countries but was meant to pinpoint that human rights have different perspectives.
Western countries have gone through different stages of development where human rights were developed. The United States went through a period of political turmoil after the Korean War in the fifties, when McCarthyism led to the victimisation of more than 200 public figures and 10,000 Americans, all of which lost their jobs.
Europe also witnessed horrific massacres during World War II, from Nazism in Germany, fascism in Italy, and Stalinism in the Soviet Union.
The modern history of Europe and the United States is littered with infringements of human rights for millions of people.
The fact that each civilisation has its own set of values that may differ from the West is worth noting here. Therefore, we must take into account that it is not anyone’s right to impose their beliefs on others but should rather acknowledge this disparity.
Take the US’ role in Afghanistan, for example. The US failed to impose its values on Afghans in the 20 years of US occupation, especially given their ignorance of their customs and traditions.
In our world today, each country has its own priorities, especially those that suffer from extreme poverty, poor health care, or school dropouts. They cannot ignore the peoples’ right to adequate housing and a decent life while debating the right of same-sex marriage, for example.
However, human rights are too easily politicised and used by some parties to serve their interests and manipulate others to fulfill hidden agendas.
Human rights are intrinsically interconnected and thus they form an indivisible whole, at least for us and for many others in developing countries.