The Hibakusha’s Decades Long Journey to Ban Nuclear Weapons
A nuclear attack is almost too horrific to imagine. But take a few minutes and try to walk in the footsteps of the hibakusha, the survivors of the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Follow their journey from 6 and 9 August 1945 through a lifetime of advocacy to eliminate nuclear weapons.
ICAN is grateful to the 1945 Project for allowing the use of photos and testimonies.
Maybe you crawl out of the rubble before it crushes you or maybe you are pulled out by an uncle, a neighbour, a stranger. You open your eyes and witness something unlike you’ve ever seen before.
Your home, flattened. Your neighbour’s home, flattened. Your city, burning. Your families’, friends’, neighbours’, classmates’, coworkers’ bodies, burnt. Eyeballs hanging out of their sockets.
Your skin burns, you ache for cold water to relieve the pain.
You stumble through your torched hometown desperately looking for your family. You may find them. You may not.
In the weeks and months that follow, it doesn't get easier.
You have lost so much.
Thirteen square kilometres in Hiroshima, flattened. Nearly seven square kilometres of homes, schools and hospitals in Nagasaki destroyed by heat, blast and fire.
You are hungry. But how do you find food? You are scared and psychologically scarred from the trauma of loss that never seems to stop. The medical aid and other supplies come too little, too late.
Mysterious ailments take the life of your family members you thought would survive. You wonder if you are next, are your children? Decades later, you lose your children to radiation diseases. Cancer runs in the family, like a hereditary trait.
In the years to come, you face stigma and discrimination for your suffering. You must weigh the discrimination you would face for admitting your identity with your right to subsidized health care.
You are sick. But you still have hope. And your hope becomes a symbol for peace and nuclear disarmament that inspires the world.
Just to have survived this atrocity is a miracle. But you don’t give up. You will not rest until you are sure that no one will ever have to endure what you did as a child that August in 1945. Until the world has gotten rid of nuclear weapons for good.
You organise an annual conference bringing thousands of activists and students from around the world to Hiroshima and Nagasaki to learn about your history and to organise together to fight for a nuclear-free world.
You take to the streets. You collect more than 10 million signatures internationally to appeal for the elimination of nuclear weapons.
You take to the seas. You educate the next generation about your experience - painstakingly reliving your childhood trauma each time to make sure that there are no new stories of atomic bombings to tell.
You take to the United Nations. You advocate for and negotiate the first internationally legally binding treaty banning nuclear weapons.
You accept the 2017 Nobel Peace Prize for your work with ICAN "to draw attention to the catastrophic humanitarian consequences of any use of nuclear weapons and for... ground-breaking efforts to achieve a treaty-based prohibition of such weapons."
You meet with dignitaries around the world, spreading your message and urging international leaders to abandon the bombs that killed your family, that annihilated your home. They hear your stories.
Seven decades years after you saw that blinding light, after you were crushed by that rubble, you haven’t stopped raising your voice. You call on all countries to sign and ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW). You call on all countries to destroy their stockpile of humanity-ending weapons. You have never flagged in making this appeal.
Now, you call on the next generation to join you, to share your stories, and make sure that the world remembers the true impacts of these weapons of mass destruction and rallies behind the TPNW.
Join the Hibakusha in their work to end nuclear weapons. Start by sharing their stories and spreading the word about the Treaty.