Nobel Peace Prize: Invisible faces and unheard voices
Human rights and the Nobel Peace Prize, beyond Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai.
“YouTube is banned in Pakistan but not in Sweden. So I went to my room, turned it on and learnt the meaning of the song,” says Sanam.
Sanam says it is one of the most beautiful prayers written by a human being. She felt it to be a kind of Sufi poetry that would go straight to Allah without any intervention.
Seated in the Alfred Nobel Peace Centre in Oslo, as Kailash Satyarthi delivered the Peace Lecture, Sanam was in tears. She was reminded of children miles and miles away in her Sindhi village. “Woh maar khatey hain, barey ho jatey hain – jaldi barey ho jaatey hain (they get beaten up, they grow up and age too soon),” she says.
And what about Malala Yousafzai’s speech? “It was a positive one, it gave us hope… isliye main sambhal gayi (I could control myself),” she adds.
Kailash Satyarthi bonds with Sanam Noor Pechucho.
On the third day of waiting in the hotel lobby where the Nobel laureates were staying in Oslo, Sanam runs to Kailash as he walks in. She makes him wear a Sindhi topi she brought to gift him. And he asks her to pledge that she will be a part of the Global Campaign for Child Rights. Sanam couldn’t stop smiling.
Hatef Mokhtar goes out of his way to help strangers but is incapable of displaying modesty. An adamant Pashtun, who loses his temper every now and then. But scratch the surface and you meet a man who has been toughened by life’s hard experiences. Born in Afghanistan’s Maazar E Sharif, Hatef grew up in rugged Kandahar. Destiny brought him to the Norwegian Capital of Oslo in 2001.
As a young boy, Hatef lost his father Maulvi Gul Mohammad Khan for his anti communist views, when the Russians invaded Afghanistan. His most important memory of Afganistan is the most painful one too. The day the Russian army suddenly raided and took away his father. And a 12 year old Hatef ran behind the security vehicle for a long distance, bewildered with what was happening.
Afghan author and founder and chief editor of The Oslo Times, Hatef Mokhtar.
When the Americans invaded Afghanistan, they broke the prison door and Hatef saw the first rays of the sun in more than a year.This life episode left him with a strong urge for human rights which he thinks is the right to discover yourself, practice and be the way you want to be. It encompasses political rights to protest, vote and elect your leaders.In the 90s, Hatef wrote in several newspapers in Pashto and English against extremism and championing for freedom of expression. His anti Taliban articles landed this first journalist in his family, in a jail in Kandahar in 1999.As a political prisoner, he was Tortured, given electric shocks, beaten by sticks and rods. He was lodged alone in a dark cell, but saw many of the 3000 inmates in the crowded prison lose their lives. In a 2 metre by 1 metre cell, Hatef was all alone, barred from meeting family or friends. A bottle of water with 3 pieces of bread was his daily meal.
With his mother and younger brother, Hatef then undertook a journey via Pakistan, staying in Delhi for around 5 months to Oslo, where he was granted political asylum and began a new life.
In 2011 Hatef started The Oslo Times, a leading English online daily which has 55 perecnt of its focus on Human Rights News. With a strength of 55 journalists across Norway, Denmark, Sweden, South Asia, US and Latin America, the paper will launch its print edition early next year.
Hatef says freedom of expression is the only way to attain a democracy and media has a role to play. Especially in South Asia and Africa, where yellow journalism and propaganda, too, has deep roots today. He thinks the Nobel Ceremony is a symbolic event, but it does have a strong message for advocates of human rights. A message to eradicate discrimination and seek equality.
Not one among the naysayers, Hatef thinks the Malala foundation works for 1,00,000 children across the globe today. And the Nobel Peace Prize Money will strengthen it further. He adds Kailash was not very well known before the award. And that the Prize will be good for Bachpan Bachao Andolan and for India.
Hatef cannot go back to Afghanistan because Taliban is resurgent in the tribal belts but he misses the smell of his soil. His 70-year-old mother has adjusted to Norway for her sons. But he says: “When you are born and grow up in some country, you miss your motherland. I love the Afghan nature. I love my country.”