Woodhall Spa area couple called up to Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2022 for Afghanistan

After incredible and terrifying experiences in Afghanistan, a Woodhall Spa area couple are being asked to help the war-torn country to “find a way forward” as part of a Nobel Peace Prize Forum, alongside experts including former USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

Hassina Syed and Peter Jouvenal.
Hassina Syed and Peter Jouvenal.

It’s been a tough and challenging 18 or so months for Peter Jouvenal and his wife Hassina Syed.

Hassina, a political activist, was one of thousands of British nationals forced to flee Afghanistan in August 2021 when the Taliban seized power of the country.

And then at the end of last year, her husband Peter was imprisoned in Afghanistan while he was working there, and was dramatically released on June 27.

And now the incredible couple, who live near Woodhall Spa, have been asked to take part in The Nobel Peace Prize Forum 2022, which will focus on how to find a way forward for Afghanistan and is taking place as part of the yearly Nobel Peace Prize celebrations.

Even after the withdrawal of international troops last year and more than a year under the Taliban’s rule, the freedom and basic human rights of the Afghan people, especially women, continue to deteriorate.

And now the winter is here, Hassina said the priority for the Forum is how to save the people living in poverty in Afghanistan.

She said: “What is unique about this Forum is that the whole world is on one side against Afghanistan and I’m on the other – that’s a big weight on my shoulders!

“I have to tell them the reality of our people and our country, most of what people are saying of Afghanistan blows my mind.”

During The Nobel Peace Prize Forum, nine top level speakers on world affairs from all over the world, including Hassina and Peter, will come together to discuss a way forward for the people, including former USA Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Italian diplomat and United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees Filipo Grande and Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Anniken Huitfeldt.

Hassina and Peter have been asked to attend the Forum, taking place over December 9, 10 and 11, in University Aula in Oslo, Norway as one of these nine experts to share their respective experiences of fleeing and escaping from the country, and The Forum will also address the crucial question of whether and how the West should engage with the Taliban.

Peter said the couple were asked to go as they both have positive experiences – as well as harrowing ones – of the country:

"They want to paint a positive picture of Afghanistan as there is currently a negative attitude towards Afghanistan, and Hassina said we should go,” he said.

Hassina said that her main points covered will will be not about where to place the blame over who is at fault for the conflict in Afghanistan, but what to do about the famine gripping the country at present:

"There are no jobs out there, no food, no fuel – people are starving and winter is coming, even sitting in our warm houses we’re cold here, so imagine what my people in Afghanistan are feeling with no money to buy fuel to heat their homes.

"This is the time to think about those people of Afghanistan and my people, they are starving and we need to help them.”

The Nobel Peace Prize is awarded on the day of Alfred Nobel’s death, December 10, since 1901 and will see more than 1,000 guests gather in Oslo City Hall, including representatives of the Norwegian royal family, government and parliament representatives and other representatives from Norwegian civil society.

Hassina said that she had met Hillary Clinton in the past in her role as a businesswoman in Afghanistan, promoting her message that women can be strong:

"I want to show men, always, that women in Afghanistan can do more if they are given the opportunity, that they are capable of being strong.

"Now I’m thinking not just of us women, as women's rights will be an ongoing issue for years to come, but I’m thinking of our whole country as men, women and children are starving in this famine and we need to do something.”