A side event that included discussions on a documentary film premier titled "I Want to Live On: The Untold Stories of the Polygon”. Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri, Multimedia Director of INPS Japan. - Photo: 2023

The Voices of Victims of Nuclear Weapons Testing

By Thalif Deen

UNITED NATIONS, 30 November 2023 (IDN) — Speaking at a side event during a weeklong meeting of States Parties on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), Hirotsugu Terasaki, Director General of Peace and Global Issues, Soka Gakkai International (SGI), warned that the past two months have seen the outbreak of wide-scale violence between Israel and the Gaza Strip—and the ongoing conflict in Ukraine—both of which continue to heighten the “risk that nuclear weapons could actually be used.”

Despite these conditions, the NPT Review Conference failed to adopt a final statement, and the first PrepCom for the 2026 Review Conference did not produce a Chair’s Summary for the first time.

Then, in November, the government of Russia announced its decision to revoke its ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), a serious setback for the cause of nuclear disarmament, he pointed out.

These realities make convening the current Second Meeting of States Parties of the TPNW, which concludes December 1, all the more important and a crucial opportunity to revive momentum for nuclear disarmament and abolition.

The Preamble of the TPNW declares: “Mindful of the unacceptable suffering of and harm caused to the victims of the use of nuclear weapons (hibakusha), as well as of those affected by the testing of nuclear weapons…”

The discussions included a follow-up to a documentary film premier titled “I want to Live On” organized by the Center for International Security and Policy (CISP: Kazakhstan), Soka Gakkai International (SGI: Japan), the Permanent Mission of the Republic of Kazakhstan to the UN and the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN).

The documentary highlighted the testimony of Algerim Yelgeldy, a third-generation survivor of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site.

The speakers included Alimzhan Akhmetov of CISP and a government representative of Kazakhstan, Arman Baissuanov.

In his vote of thanks, Terasaki said: “I would especially like to recognize and thank the government representative of Kazakhstan, Arman Baissuanov”.

“Once again, following the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2026 NPT Review Conference, we have enjoyed the support of the Kazakhstan Government and the Center for International Security and Policy (CISP) in organizing a side event focused on the victims of nuclear weapons testing. I wish to express my sincere thanks to all those involved.”

He also pointed out that “today is the first public showing of the documentary “I Want to Live On: The Untold Stories of the Polygon,” created by CISP, with the support of the SGI. It records the voices of victims of nuclear weapons testing, powerfully and effectively communicating the inhumanity and folly of nuclear weapons.

“I remember looking over the desolate vastness of the nuclear test site formerly known as Semipalatinsk. The shock of witnessing firsthand the terrible damage inflicted there is something I will never forget,” Terasaki said.

The debate about nuclear weapons tends to revolve around deterrence theory and other questions of an abstract, political nature.

“Against that backdrop, I think this documentary, which conveys the threat posed by nuclear weapons and the reality of the damage, can help bring the focus back to lived realities and experiences of people. As such, I am confident that it will prove to be a valuable educational tool.” 

It is just because the path to a world without nuclear weapons is strewn with difficulties that it is vital that people everywhere raise their voices to challenge current assumptions—that nuclear weapons are somehow necessary for human society, or that they can be the basis for building safe and secure societies, he argued.

The Soka Gakkai International (SGI) will continue to educate the public about the suffering of global hibakusha, and to promote victim assistance and environmental remediation as called for in Articles 6 and 7 of the TPNW. The voices of real people shared in today’s presentation will be invaluable in that effort, he declared.

“I would like to conclude by calling on all present today to continue to inform the public about the threat of nuclear weapons and the inhuman harm they cause, and to shift the global tide toward nuclear disarmament.” [IDN-InDepthNews]

Photo: A side event that included discussions on a documentary film premier titled “I Want to Live On: The Untold Stories of the Polygon”. Credit: Katsuhiro Asagiri, Multimedia Director of INPS Japan.

The documentary I Want to Live On is available on YouTube.

This article was produced as a part of the joint media project between The Non-profit International Press Syndicate Group and Soka Gakkai International in Consultative Status with ECOSOC on 30 November 2023.

IDN is the flagship agency of the Non-profit International Press Syndicate.

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