Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bomb Sufferers Organizations
Friends from all over the world, I am honored to be able to make a report on behalf of Hibakusha to the first World Conference against A&H Bombs in the 21st century.
In the August of 56 years ago, U.S. bombers abruptly appeared in the airspace over Hiroshima and Nakasaki and without warning dropped atomic bombs which had until then been unknown to human kind. The bombs exploded with a flash at the altitude of about 500 meters. As a result of the blast people were flung to the ground and houses were blown to pieces. This was followed by heat rays which burnt people who were outdoors at the time and set fire the houses. People who could not escape from collapsed houses were burnt alive and invisible radiation was destroyed human cells and genes. Even those who were fortunate enough to survive the initial stage suffered high fever, bleeding, diarrhea, and hair loss and died one after another. Just two atom bombs were powerful enough to take the lives of 210,000 people within five month of the bombing. Such was the brutality of bomb. Nuclear weapons are nothing less than the devil's weapon of mass destruction.
I was 13 years old at the time of the atomic bombing. I was fortunate to survive because my house was at the back of a mountain which rose as a barrier, about 3.2 kilometers from ground zero. Three days later, I had to cremate my grandmother, who had been burnt to death in a field near ground zero. The atomic bomb took the lives of my grandfather and four other relatives at the same time.
Today, 56 years later, what I witnessed at the age of 13 remains in memory: Smoking ruins stretched several kilometers; dozens of bodies, naked and swelling like balloons were floating in the reservoir; there were bodies of children who had apparently been burnt to death when their house was flung against a stone wall; hundreds of bodies of women and children were waiting for someone to collect them; and many injured people with maggots crawling over their bodies with no hope of remaining medical attention.
Hibakusha who barely survived also suffered
from mysterious delayed disorders, apparently caused by radiation, such
as fatigue for no apparent reason, liver disorders, and numerous "cancers"
including leukemia. I was stricken by the thought that I may be the
next one to die. Many Hibakusha, who could have survived if they
had received medical treatment, died and hundreds of thousands of
other people died a delayed
The Japan Confederation of A- & H-Bombs Sufferers Organizations (Hidankyo) was established by Hibakusha (A-bomb survivors) who gathered from all over the country to attend the 2nd World Conference against A & H Bombs in August 1956. Hibakusha who had been suffering in isolation now found that life was worth living. Since then they have developed a major movement calling for the elimination of nuclear weapons as well as the government aid and compensation for Hibakusha. They joined forces and encouraged each other in their movement in the firm belief that "their experience must never be repeated."
A major step forward was made with the
enactment of the 1957 Law on the Medical Treatment of A-bomb Victims ,
followed by the 1968 Law on the Special Arrangements for A-bomb Victims.
Under these laws the government was responsible for medical treatment for
and the maintenance of Hibakusha's health. Then, in1994, the two laws were
integrated into the Hibakusha Aid Law. This was a major achievement
movement of the Hibakusha as well as the Movement against A & H Bombs.
But the Japanese government until today has been reluctant to fulfill its responsibility for providing compensation for Hibakusha on the grounds that "the general cost of the war should be borne equally by all people without exception."
The Japanese government's policy toward
Hibakusha has been one of distinguishing A-bomb victims from other was
victims by classifying damage from radiation as being exceptional.
That was how the government was able to place rigorous restrictions on
the recognition of Hibakusha's illnesses as being caused by the atomic
bombings. Matsuya Hideko, a Nagasaki Hibakusha, waged a 12-year court
struggle until July last year,
when she won the Supreme Court handed down a ruling in her favor. In another lawsuit, a Hibakusha in Kyoto won a similar ruling in the Osaka High Court. Following these court decisions, the government for the first time drew up what can be described as "criteria for recognition of Hibakusha's diseases as having been caused by the atomic bombing," but the criteria completely disregard the spirit of the Supreme Court ruling.
While struggling to get the government to provide state compensation for A-bomb survivors, Japanese Hibakusha have always emphasized how important it is to achieve the immediate elimination of nuclear weapons, so that there are no more Hibakusha.
Hibakusha believe that the need now is to let the public know as much as possible about the damage from the atomic bombings in order to build up public consensus on the demand that nuclear weapons be abolished and to influence politics to this effect. As part of this effort, we have attempted to seize every opportunity to reach out to people in Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa, as well as in Japan. Using Hibakusha's notes on their personal experiences, photos and other illustrations, Hibakusha, as living witnesses of the atomic bombing, related their sufferings and hardships and called for nuclear weapons to be abolished. In particular we have been focusing on sending out photo panels entitled "Human Being and the Atomic Bomb" to many countries so that they will be shown in exhibitions.
However, the problem now is that Hibakusha are aging and losing the physical and financial strength necessary to travel abroad. We have so far organized Hibakusha tours of the U.S. East Coast every year using our own resources. But we now have difficulty organizing a sufficient number of Hibakusha to participate in such tours. We now need to find some special way to make it possible for Hibakusha to continue to play role of telling their story of the atomic bombing.
Nuclear weapons not only sacrificed Pacific islanders through their atmospheric test explosions on Pacific atolls; they have produced victims at every stage of nuclear weapon development, including research, development, testing and stockpiling in the nuclear weapons countries. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the damage done to localities near testing sites by the former Soviet Union's nuclear tests in Kazakhstan and other regions has been revealed to be much more enormous than had been expected. We have stepped up common efforts to establish support and compensation for all nuclear test victims. Last year, we held a solidarity meeting with the world's Hibakusha and made a written request in the name of all participants calling for assistance. The letter was sent to the United Nations and the nuclear weapons states.
Hidankyo now proposes a movement of international citizens tribunals to condemn the use of nuclear weapons as a crime, with all Hibakusha as the plaintiffs. In doing this, we are trying to find a way to create a groundswell of NGOs toward abolishing nuclear weapons. We would be grateful if you could provide us with any ideas as well as support for this project.
The development and use of nuclear weapons has been the worst stain left by the humanity in the 20th century. The desire to achieve the abolition of nuclear weapons emanates from the belief that human kind cannot coexist with nuclear weapons, but this desire was not realized by the end of the last century. But, last year's NPT Review Conference reached a consensus with nuclear weapon states agreeing on an unequivocal undertaking to achieve the elimination of nuclear arsenals. The earnest desire of Hibakusha is to do their utmost in the movement to attain what has been agreed on. We, Hibakusha are not in despair. We have learned from our experiences in Hiroshima and Nagasaki that despair will only lead to the end of human kind.
Let me close my speech by making a sincere
appeal for increased solidarity with all Hibakusha and peace-loving people
throughout the world.