A message from ICAN campaigner Setsuko Thurlow, a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, an anti-nuclear activist and a retired social worker.
When I speak about my experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, often the first thing that comes to mind is an image of my four-year-old nephew Eiji – transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water, until he died in agony.
Had he not been a victim of the atomic bomb, he would be 76 years old this year. This idea still shocks me. Regardless of the passage of time, he remains in my memory as a 4-year-old child who came to represent all the innocent children of the world. And it is the image of massive death of innocents that has been the driving force for me to continue my struggle against nuclear weapons.
Many survivors of the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been passing in recent years with their dreams of nuclear abolition unfulfilled. Their motto was “abolition in our lifetime”.
Nuclear weapons are far from abolished. The nuclear-armed states are continuing to upgrade and modernize their nuclear arsenals, and disarmament negotiations continue to be blocked while international tensions are on the rise.
But the world now has an historic opportunity to achieve something remarkable. Over the past five years, I have witnessed the mounting momentum of a global movement involving states without nuclear weapons and NGOs working together to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons.
This movement has shown beyond all doubt that nuclear weapons are first and foremost a grave humanitarian problem, and that the terrible risks of these weapons cast all techno-military considerations into irrelevance.
Thanks to the work of ICAN and committed people around the world, the proposal for negotiating a treaty banning nuclear weapons is now on the table. At the end of this month, all governments will vote yes or no to starting negotiations of a treaty that will prohibit nuclear weapons.
The number of people who experienced the catastrophic humanitarian suffering caused by nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki is rapidly diminishing. This is an historic moment for us, for you, and for the world. Let us seize this opportunity to ban nuclear weapons – in our lifetime. Together, we have the power to make this happen.
Setsuko Thurlow is a survivor of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, an anti-nuclear activist and a retired social worker. She lives in Toronto, Canada.