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Anti-Nuke Movement Goes to the Gulf

Image credit: ICANNuclear Abolition News | IPS


MANAMA (IPS) – After a week of activities in Oslo during the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, major anti-nuclear campaigners moved on March 10 to the Bahraini capital, Manama, in yet another step towards the abolition of atomic weapons. [P] ARABIC | GERMAN | JAPANESE TEXT VERSION PDF

“Nuclear weapons – the most inhuman and destructive of all tools of war – are at the peak of a pyramid of violence in this increasingly interdependent world,” said campaigners during a joint press conference on March 12 in Manama. “The threat of atomic weapons is not in the past,” the organisers said. “It is a major crisis today.”

Co-organised by the Bahrain Centre for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), Soka Gakkai International (SGI), the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), the United Nations Information Center (UNIC) and Inter Press Service (IPS), the exhibition — “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons” — is being held in Manama from March 12 to March 23.

Organised by the Tokyo-based non-governmental civil society association Soka Gakkai International (SGI), with the support of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), together with the United Nations Information Centre in Manama as well as the Bahrain Center for Strategic, International and Energy Studies (Derasat), and Inter Press Service (IPS), the exhibition — “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons” — is being shown from Mar 13 to 23.

“This exhibition – the first ever in an Arab country – (represents another) step toward making the human aspiration to live in a world free from nuclear weapons a reality,” SGI’s executive director for peace affairs, Hirotugu Terasaki, told IPS.

“The very existence of these weapons – the most inhuman of all – implies a major danger,” said Terasaki, a high-level official of Soka Gakkai Buddhist organisation that promotes international peace and security, with more than 12 million members globally.

Asked about the argument used by nuclear powers that the possession of such weapons is a guarantee of safety and security – the so-called “deterrence doctrine” – Terasaki said, “The world should now move beyond this myth.”

“Security”, he said, begins with basic human needs: shelter, clean air to breathe, water to drink, food to eat. People need to work, to care for their health, to be protected from violence, according to the SGI exhibition.

Terasaki believes nuclear weapons differ from “conventional” weapons in two main regards.

“First is their overwhelming destructive power. The atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima in 1945 delivered a blast equivalent to about 13 kilotons of TNT,” he said.

Some 140,000 people lost their lives just at the end of that year, he said.

“Since then nuclear weapons with yields of more than 50 megatons have been developed, several thousand times more powerful than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima.”

Whereas conventional weapons can, at least to some degree, distinguish between military and civilian targets, nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately, destroying all life on a massive scale, Terasaki averred.

“The second point to emphasise is the radioactivity they leave behind. After fires caused by the explosion are extinguished and silence returns, radioactivity (lingers on) for months and can cause leukaemia or other diseases, even affecting people who only enter the area after the bombing. These diseases are often inherited by sufferers’ offspring.”

Before moving to Bahrain, the SGI exhibition had been shown in more than 230 venues in 29 countries and territories. Manama is the first city in the Middle East region to host it. The contents of the exhibition have been translated into eight languages including Arabic now.

Among its key objectives in Bahrain is to contribute to the discussion on a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone.

“What we celebrate today reflects a sincere expression of the true spirit of Islam,” Bahraini Minister for Foreign Affairs Ghanim bin-Fadl Al-Buainain said at a press conference on March 10.

“The pure meaning of Islam is ‘peace’,” he said, “but unfortunately Islam’s image and principles have (today) been distorted…”

Al-Buainain also referred to the third nuclear test carried out by North Korea in February, saying that the biggest threat to “international peace and security is the global and regional arms race, especially nuclear arms”.

He also called attention to Iran’s nuclear programme, “which maintains its peaceful functions”. However, this programme has “far-reaching effects on the environment, wildlife and marine life…as well as security risks in the Gulf region if it transforms into a militaristic nuclear programme,” added the Bahraini minister.

Speaking at the same press conference, Japan’s ambassador in Manama, Shigeki Sumi, reaffirmed Japan’s commitment to abolishing nuclear weapons, since “Japan has been the sole country that suffered from the catastrophic human consequences of nuclear bombing during World War II”.

Nasser Burdestani, ICAN’s regional campaigner in Bahrain who played a key role in organising the anti-nuclear exhibition, stressed the need to advance the effort of so-called “human diplomacy”.

“Biological weapons were prohibited in 1975; chemical weapons in 1997; land mines in 1999, and cluster bombs in 2010. It is now time to abolish nuclear weapons,” said Burdestani.

Two major anti-nuclear events in Oslo preceded this historic exhibition: the ICAN Civil Society Forum (March 2-3) that brought together more than 500 campaigners, experts, scientists and physicians, followed by an inter-governmental conference (March 4-5), organised by Norway’S Foreign Affairs ministry, which drew representatives from 127 states, the United Nations and the International Committee of the Red Cross, in addition to civil society.

Notable at the Oslo conference was the complete absence of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council.

At the start of 2012 eight states possessed approximately 4,400 operational nuclear weapons, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI).

“Nearly 2,000 of these are kept in a state of high operational alert. If all nuclear warheads are counted – operational warheads, spares, those in both active and inactive storage, and intact warheads scheduled for dismantlement the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan and Israel together possess a total of approximately 19,000 nuclear weapons,” SIPRI reported.

Meanwhile, SGI’s president and eminent Buddhist leader, Daisaku Ikeda, has launched a global peace proposal, a blueprint consisting of three major proposals that will serve as a launching point for the larger goal of total global disarmament by the year 2030.

The proposal expresses the hope that NGOs and forward-looking governments will establish an action group to initiate, before the year’s end, the process of drafting a Nuclear Weapons Convention (NWC) outlawing nuclear weapons, which swallow some 105 billion dollars annually.

In a study entitled ‘Don’t Bank on the Bomb’, ICAN reported that more than 300 banks, pension funds, insurance companies and asset managers in 30 countries have invested heavily in nuclear arms producers, while 20 companies are involved in the manufacture, maintenance and modernisation of U.S., British, French and Indian nuclear forces. [IPS | March 11, 2013]




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