By Katsuhiro Asagiri
NUR-SULTAN, Kazakhstan (IDN) – 2019 marks the 30th anniversary of the end of nuclear weapons testing in Semipalatinsk, the primary testing venue for the Soviet Union’s nuclear weapons, the 10th anniversary of the entry into force of the Treaty on a Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone in Central Asia, and the ratification by Kazakhstan as the 26th country to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.
Kazakhstan is known for its commitment to ridding the world of nuclear weapons. An estimated 1.5 million of its people suffered the effects of the testing of 456 nuclear weapons at Semipalatinsk over four decades.
This year also marks the first showing of the Russian-language version of the exhibition ‘Everything You Treasure – For a World Free from Nuclear Weapons’, from October 2-13 in Nur-Sultan city, the capital of Kazakhstan. The exposition was first shown in 2012 in Hiroshima, the sight of first ever nuclear bombings along with Nagasaki. It has since been seen in 90 cities in 20 countries. Kazakhstan is the 21st country to host it.
< Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues of the SGI, delivering opening remarks. Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS.
Co-sponsored by the Soka Gakkai International (SGI), the Nobel laureate International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN) and the Library of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbassy, the exhibition encourages viewers to understand how nuclear weapons threaten all that we treasure in life in all its dimensions: environmental, medical, economic, human rights, energy, spiritual, gender, generational and security aspects.
The exhibition was inaugurated on October 1 with opening remarks by Amerkhan Rakhimzhanov, Director of the Library of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbassy; Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues of the SGI; Tatsuhiko Kasai, Ambassador of Japan to Kazakhstan; and Kuanysh Sultanov, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Kazakhstan under the First President of Kazakhstan.
Amerkhan Rakhimzhanov, who studied in Japan, said, he was “overcome by deep emotion that we are hosting the international traveling exhibition Everything You Treasure—For a World Free From Nuclear Weapons’ at the initiative of our part partner, Soka Gakkai International”.
“This will be the largest exhibition I have organized since I became the director of Elibassy. The Library of the first president of the Republic of Kazakhstan treasures the partner relationship with like-minded people here and abroad. This year, we have developed a friendly relationship with SGI. I expect to further our partnership into the future,” added Mr. Rakhimzhanov.
Mr. Terasaki, who led the SGI delegation to the ‘Congress of the Leaders of World and Traditional Religions’ on October 10-11, 2018 in the Kazakh capital city, then named Astana, read out a message by SGI President Dr. Daisaku Ikeda. “Together with expressing our profound respect for Kazakhstan’s continuing efforts to promote the cause of denuclearization in the face of numerous daunting challenges, I wish to share our sense of joy at being able to hold the exhibition . . . here in this beautiful land of peace.”
Dr. Ikeda went on to recall in the message that “a new solidarity of hope seeking a world free from nuclear weapons originated and spread from Kazakhstan”. This is the brilliant history of creating peace that is engraved in the awareness of the world’s peoples, he added.
He went quoted President Nursultan Nazarbayev, the First President of Kazakhstan, who succeeded in realizing the world’s first closing of a nuclear weapons testing site: “Nuclear weapons and radiation was far from being a distant theory for the people of Kazakhstan. It was a terrible and inexorable evil that had been devastating our land for more than four decades”.
The exhibition is an “integral part” of the movement, which brought together people living in distant places and across differences of nationality and stance, powerfully communicated the message that there is no place on Earth that can remain immune to the inhumanity and dire threat of nuclear weapons, said Dr. Ikeda.
< First showing of exhibition created by SGI and ICAN in Central Asia. Photo credit: The Seikyo Shimbun.
Reading out Dr. Ikeda’s message, Mr. Terasaki stated: “What we must challenge and confront above all are the ways of thinking that justify nuclear weapons”.
Recalling the stirring words of great Kazakh national poet, Abai Kunanbaev, “Do not lose your sense of justice and never tire of doing good,” Dr. Ikeda said, “The members of the SGI are deeply committed to continuing to exert our fullest efforts, alongside our respected friends in Kazakhstan, toward the goal of a global society of peace and creative coexistence, a world free from the threat of nuclear weapons”.
Japanese Ambassador to Kazakhstan Tatsuhiko Kasai expressed praise for organization of the exhibition ‘Everything You Treasure – For a World Free from Nuclear Weapons’, and mentioned the experiences of his grandmother who was affected by an atom bombing of Nagasaki.
Kuanish Sultanov, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Kazakhstan under the First President of Kazakhstan and former deputy prime minister, while referring to the history of anti-nuclear grassroots movement in Kazakhstan, declared that “people’s solidarity is stronger than nuclear weapons” and expressed his conviction that human wisdom will find a way to overcome the menace of nuclear weapons.
On October 2, the SGI delegation, headed by Mr. Terasaki, called on Kazakh Foreign Minister Mukhtar Tleuberdi, who welcomed the second visit by SGI delegation following its first for the World Congress of Leaders of Traditional Religions in October 2018. Referring to the exhibition, Mr. Tleuberdi said that Kazakhstan has attached great importance to partnership with Japan when it comes to efforts for nuclear disarmament.
< SGI delegation 3km from the ground zero at Semipalatinsk former Nuclear test site. Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS
On October 3, the SGI delegation flew to Semey, until 2007 known as Semipalatinsk, and moved to Kurchatov, once the centre of operations for the adjoining Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, and visited a former nuclear test site called polygon where the first nuclear weapon was tested in 1949. It was followed by visit to the Museum at the National Nuclear Center at Kurchatov.
The next day, the SGI delegation visited the Anatomical Museum in Semey, which illustrates the devastating effects on health as a result of radioactive fallout from the nearby Polygon (the infamous Semipalatinsk nuclear test site) had on the region and its population.
Since the Soviet Union took away all medical records before the First President of Kazakhstan Nazabayev closed the nuclear weapon test site in 1991, they cannot establish direct linkage between nuclear tests and incidence of birth defects and cancers but these incidence is much higher than for the rest of the country.
The SGI delegation also visited Nuclear Medicine Cancer Center and the “Stronger than death” monument on Polkovnichy Island in Semey City. The monument depicts a mother sheltering her child from a nuclear explosion, which is depicted as an atom, inside a mushroom cloud shape.
Earlier in Almaty, the capital city of Kazakhstan until 1997, the SGI delegation headed by Mr Terasaki met with Olzhas Suleimenov, a Kazakh poet and the founder of an international anti-nuclear movement ‘Nevada-Semipalatinsk’. The protest movement which Mr. Suleimenov led since 1989 is known as the first anti-nuclear movement in all countries of the former Soviet Union and has played a major role in closing the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site in 1991. He expressed his interest in cooperating with SGI for the common goal of achieving a world free from nuclear weapons.
Mr. Terasaki spoke about second Soka Gakkai president Josei Toda’s declaration calling for the abolition of nuclear weapons in 1957 and said that the core of the nuclear weapons problem lies in a way of thinking that justify nuclear weapons: the readiness to annihilate others when they are seen as a threat. Mr. Suleimenov responded that nuclear weapons are an “absolute evil” and should therefore be completely eliminated. [IDN-InDepthNews – 17 October 2019]
Photo 1: Ribbon-cutting ceremony opens ‘Everything You Treasure…’ exhibition (from left to right): Sapar Akhmetov, member of the Mazhilis (lower house) of the Parliament of Kazakhstan, Amerkhan Rakhimzhanov, Director of the Library of the First President of the Republic of Kazakhstan – Elbassy, Kuanysh Sultanov, Chairman of the Human Rights Commission of Kazakhstan under the First President of Kazakhstan, Tatsuhiko Kasai, Ambassador of Japan to Kazakhstan, Bizhanova Gulnara Kadyrzhankyzy, member of the Mazhilis of Parliament of Kazakhstan, Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues of the SGI. Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS.
Photo 2 (left in text): Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues of the SGI, delivering opening remarks. Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS.
Photo 3 (in text): SGI delegation 3km from the ground zero at Semipalatinsk former Nuclear test site. Photo credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri | IDN-INPS.
Photo 4 (in text): First showing of exhibition created by SGI and ICAN in Central Asia. Photo credit: The Seikyo Shimbun.
IDN is flagship agency of the International Press Syndicate.
facebook.com/IDN.GoingDeeper – twitter.com/InDepthNews