The Treaty is set to enter into force soon,only seven of the many UN member states already working on ratification of the TPNW need to completethe task before it enters into force. It’s time to ensure that every town council and every parliamentarian and everyone who dreams of nuclear disarmament speaks out and insists that it is time the UKGovernment to get its head out of the sand and start thinking about the common good. In the week that marks the 75th anniversaries of the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Around the world, people and parliaments are already responding to the hibakusha call to get rid of all nuclear weapons everywhere. Setsuko’s letter to Nicola and Nicola’s reply (see last week’s news) gave Scotland immeasurable reassurance that we are understood in our opposition to nuclear weapons and our determination to play a part in getting rid of them. This is an internationalist rather than a nationalist perspective and Setsuko’s letters to all heads of nuclear armed states are a very powerful tool in putting the humanitarian argument right at the heart of the UK nuclear weapons debate at this significant point in the upgrading and renewal programme. Ireland, always a key player in nuclear disarmament, in ratifying the treaty is a powerful example as we envisage a Scotland that can act responsibly instead of being the UK’s launchpad. As another three UN member states ratified the TPNW in a special cermony in New York with ICAN’s Setsuko Thurlow, a new generation of Scottish campaigners were speaking out at Hiroshima events across the country. They are taking the intersectional relationship between climate change, nuclear weapons and human rights and putting it clearly on the line.The TPNW is urgently needed, and on its way. Dan Haddow from UN House and Secure Scotland was at the Peace Tree in Glasgow
“It is thanks to my connection with Secure Scotland that I have the opportunity to speak with you today. Secure Scotland exists to re-examine the concept of security by asking what it is that makes people feel safe in their everyday lives. Our view is that categorically does not include nuclear weapons.
Hibakusha is a legal term in Japan that encompasses different categories of survivors of the atomic bombs dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945. Those officially recognised as Hibakusha are entitled to financial and health support from the Japanese government in recognition of the devastatingly detrimental impact that exposure to either the initial blast of the atomic bombs or the ensuing radiation has had on their lives and livelihoods.
I have never personally met a Hibakusha, but I have had the opportunity to work alongside survivors of landmine accidents through my work with The HALO Trust. I will not insult the Hibakusha and landmine survivors through an effort to compare their vastly different experiences of conflict, however I do strongly feel that both the international campaign to ban landmines and the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons are right to put the testimony of survivors, especially innocent civilians, at front and centre of their campaigns.
This is because survivor testimonies, whether written, spoken, or inscribed upon their bodies are invaluable cultural artefacts. They function as cautionary tales to the rest of humanity through their depiction of the harrowing individual experiences of the human cost of conflict. They achieve this by generating deep feelings of sorrow, compassion and empathy with their audience and, simultaneously, by stirring up a powerful moral conviction that similar atrocities committed by man must never be allowed to happen again. Seen this way, I believe the testimonies of the Hibakusha form the hypocentre of the campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.
One Hibakusha testimony stood out to me in particular for its graphic depiction of the aftermath of the nuclear attack on Nagasaki. It is the testimony of Yoshiro Yamawaki. His story highlights the chaos, tragedy, fear and confusion caused by the nuclear bomb. Born in 1934, he was just 11 years old when a U.S. B-29 bomber dropped the fat man atomic bomb on his home city of Nagasaki on 9th August 1945. Mr Yamawaki explains how he and his twin brother were at home a few kilometres from the hypocentre and were lucky to survive the initial blast unscathed. After coming around, they crawled from their collapsed home and miraculously managed to reunite with their 14-year-old older brother. Together, the three brothers’ thoughts immediately turned to their father who had been working in a manufacturing plant much closer to the hypocentre. He did not return home on the day the bomb was dropped. The next day, they went out in search of him.
The idea of the boys walking across the apocalyptic scene of their devastated city while at the same time, on the other side of the world, Allied Commanders conveyed triumphant messages of military victory thanks to the technological marvel of ‘the bomb’ reminds me of a quote from war correspondent Marie Colvin. She says, ‘despite all the sanitised language describing smart bombs and pinpoint strikes, the scene on the ground has remained remarkably the same for hundreds of years. Craters. Burned houses. Mutilated bodies. Women weeping for children and husbands. Men for their wives, mothers children.’ To this forlorn list we can add children weeping for their parents as soon after embarking on their search, the young brothers’ worst fears came true when they discovered their father’s lifeless body amongst the wreckage of the factory he had been working. Following a suggestion from an adult rescue worker in the vicinity, the boys decided to cremate the body where it lay among the rubble. As the flames around the makeshift pyre grew so did their fear and confusion, so they fled and resolved to come back the following day to collect the ashes. When they returned they were horrified to find that the body had only partially burned, leaving a charred and corrupted corpse in place of the living, breathing man with whom they had shared breakfast together just two days prior on the morning of the attack. They were never able to give their father a proper burial.
Mr. Yamawaki says: ‘I think that all people who lost family members and others close to them went through similar experiences to this.’
I am really struck by this idea. It is hard to listen to Mr. Yamawaki’s story. But it’s even harder to comprehend that to truly grasp the scale of human loss and suffering caused by the nuclear attacks on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the emotive power of his testimony must be multiplied hundreds of thousands of times. This mind-expanding thought really brings home to me the appalling devastation caused by nuclear warfare, and the urgent need to continue strengthening the voice that speaks of the human cost of nuclear weapons.