The two winners of this year’s Nobel Peace Prize, children’s advocates Kailash Satyarthi and Malala Yousafzai, have landed in Oslo and face a festive if hectic week of ceremony and special events. Helicopters whirred overhead, security around the Grand Hotel was tight and thousands of people were expected to fill downtown streets and the plaza outside City Hall on Wednesday, to honour both of them.
Satyarthi, who has spent a lifetime fighting child labour and child slavery in his native India and internationally, arrived first and was greeted at Oslo’s main airport at Gardermoen by Thorbjørn Jagland, the currently embattled chairman of the Norwegian Nobel Committee. It was unclear whether Satyarthi or his co-winner known simply as “Malala,” were aware of the controversy swirling around committee membership, but Satyarthi was quick to express his gratitude to Jagland and the committee shortly after his arrival. He claimed they’d given him more attention in the first 35 minutes after his prize was announced in October than he’d had in 35 years.
“Child slavery, child brides, child labour, the sale of children, all these questions … have for the most part been neglected,” Satyarthi said as he patted Jagland’s shoulder. “But now they’ve received enormous attention.”
‘A prize for all children’
He called the prize to himself and Malala “a prize for all children in the world.” Satyarthi was accompanied on his trip to Oslo by his wife, two children and some colleagues. In line with tradition, they’ll stay at the Grand Hotel in Oslo, where the 17-year-old Malala also arrived later on Monday night. Around a hundred people were waiting outside the hotel entrance to wish the youngest prize winner ever welcome, too, amidst heavy police security. She made a brief appearance outside the hotel, saying she was “very glad to be back in Norway,” also for the “warm welcome” that she claimed gave her strength.
Johan Fredriksen, staff chief of the Oslo Police District, confirmed to news bureau NTB that security around Malala especially will be high during the duration of the Nobel Peace Prize events this week. The Taliban, which tried but failed to kill her two years ago, has made it clear that they still want to harm her. Fredriksen told NTB the security around the prize winners “is built around recommendations after a threat evaluation from PST (Norway’s police intelligence unit).”
Torchlit parade Wednesday evening
The two winners were visiting the Norwegian Nobel Institute on Tuesday where they would hold a scheduled press conference in the afternoon. Prize winners traditionally dine with the Nobel Committee on the evening before the prize ceremony which is always held on December 10, the anniversary of benefactor Alfred Nobel’s death. Before that, though, they’ll meet Norway’s royal family and thousands of school children on the plaza outside Oslo’s City Hall, where the Peace Prize ceremony takes place.
In addition to speaking at the two-hour-long ceremony that begins on Wednesday at 1pm, they’ll also sit for an interview with CNN and make a brief appearance at an Indian-Pakistani celebration at Gamle Logen before returning to the Grand Hotel to greet a traditional torchlit parade and then attend the gala Nobel banquet at the hotel.
On Thursday they’ll be attending various conferences, meetings and the opening of the Nobel Peace Prize exhibition at Oslo’s Nobel Peace Center, which will feature the bloodied school uniform Malala was wearing on the day she was shot by a Taliban gunman. They’ll also attend the annual Nobel Concert in the evening before events wind down on Friday.