After a week of activities in Oslo during the Conference on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, major anti-nuclear campaigners moved Monday to the Bahraini capital, Manama, in yet another step towards the abolition of atomic weapons.
“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 the presentation of an anti-nuclear exhibition held on Mar. 11 in Manama.
“The threat of atomic weapons is not in the past,” the organisers said. “It is a major crisis today.”
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 and promoted by the Bahraini and Japanese ministries of foreign affairs, the exhibition — “From a Culture of Violence to a Culture of Peace: Towards a World Free from Nuclear Weapons” — will be held in Manama from Mar. 12-23.
“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, who is also the vice president of this 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, according to Terasaki.
“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 toured 230 cities in 29 countries, and had been translated into eight languages including, now, Arabic.
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 Monday.
“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 last month, 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 Burdestan, 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 Burdestan.
Two major anti-nuclear events in Oslo preceded this historic exhibition: the ICAN Civil Society Forum (Mar. 2-3) that brought together more than 500 campaigners, experts, scientists and physicians, followed by an inter-governmental conference (Mar. 4-5), organised by Norway, 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 U.N. 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 phases 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 are 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.