Setsuko Thurlow ©ican

Setsuko Thurlow ©ican

Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons

Vienna, Austria

December 8, 2014

I am honoured to be invited to this Third Conference on the Humanitarian Impact
of Nuclear Weapons, and to have this opportunity to share a little of my childhood
experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima. To the government of Austria,
on behalf of all survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, I would like to express my
deep gratitude and respect for hosting this extremely important follow-up
conference to the Oslo and Nayarit conferences. Deep thanks also to ICAN
whose inspiration has brought us together, and to the ICRC and citizen groups
from all over the world, working with governments to call for the total elimination
of nuclear weapons. It gives me great satisfaction that these conferences have
renewed the focus on the humanitarian dimension of nuclear weapons, the
fundamental issue, yet long neglected by the shifting of the world’s attention to
the doctrine of deterrence in the name of national and international security.

As a 13-year-old schoolgirl I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash,
flattened by the hurricane like blast, burned in the heat of 4000 degrees Celsius
and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb. A bright summer
morning turned to dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom
cloud, dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and
receiving no medical care at all. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of
burnt flesh filled the air.

Miraculously, I was rescued from the rubble of a collapsed building, about 1.8 km
from ground zero. Most of my classmates in the same room were burned alive. I
can still hear their voices calling their mothers and God for help. As I escaped
with two other surviving girls we saw a procession of ghostly figures slowly
shuffling from the centre of the city. Grotesquely wounded people, whose clothes
were tattered, or who were made naked by the blast. They were bleeding, burnt,
blackened and swollen. Parts of their bodies were missing, flesh and skin
hanging from their bones, some with their eyeballs hanging in their hands, and
some with their stomachs burst open, with their intestines hanging out.

Within that single flash of light, my beloved Hiroshima became a place of
desolation, with heaps of rubble, skeletons and blackened corpses
everywhere. Of a population of 360,000 — largely non-combatant women,
children and elderly — most became victims of the indiscriminate massacre of the
atomic bombing. As of now, over 250,000 victims have perished in Hiroshima
from the effects of the blast, heat and radiation. Today, 69 years later people are
still dying from the delayed effects of one atomic bomb: considered crude by
today’s standard for mass destruction.

Through months and years of struggle for survival, rebuilding lives out of the
ashes, we Hibakusha, or ‘survivors’, became convinced that no human being
should ever have to repeat our experience of the inhumane, immoral, and cruel 3
atomic bombing, and that our mission is to warn the world about the reality of the
nuclear threat and to help people understand the illegality and ultimate evil of
nuclear weapons. We believe that, “Humanity and nuclear weapons cannot
coexist indefinitely.” Thus, we have a moral imperative to abolish nuclear
arsenals, in order to ensure a safe, clean, and just world for future
generations. With this conviction we have been speaking out around the world
for the past several decades for the total abolition of nuclear weapons.

Yet, Hibakusha are increasingly frustrated, just as all of us here are, by the lack
of tangible progress toward nuclear disarmament. This, in spite of our baring our
souls with painful memories over the past 69 years to warn people about the hell
on earth we experienced in Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

How much longer can we allow the Nuclear Weapon States to continue
threatening all life on earth? At Nayarit we declared that the time has come for
action to establish a legally binding framework to ban nuclear weapons. Here in
Vienna let us move forward, courageously, by concretising our vision so that we
can make the 70th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki
the appropriate milestone to achieve our goal: to prohibit and eliminate nuclear
weapons. Let us start this process, beginning with negotiations on a ban treaty,
here and now in Vienna.

The Irish Red Cross nuclear weapons disarmament campaign

In line with the 2011 & 2013 resolutions of the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement, the Irish Red Cross is committed to playing its part in raising awareness in Ireland of the catastrophic humanitarian impacts that would result from the use of nuclear weapons. The resolutions appeal to States to ensure nuclear weapons are never again used and to create laws to prohibit their use and aim for their elimination.

In Ireland, the Irish Red Cross will be running a series of events and disseminating the latest news and facts as part of a nuclear weapons disarmament campaign.

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