Minister for Defence of Sweden,
11 October 2016
Dear Mr. Hultqvist,
When I speak about my experience of the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, often the first thing that comes to mind is an image of my four-year-old nephew Eiji — transformed into a charred, blackened and swollen child who kept asking in a faint voice for water, until he died in agony.
Had he not been a victim of the atomic bomb, he would be 76 years old this year. This idea still shocks me. Regardless of the passage of time, he remains in my memory as a 4-year-old child who came to represent all the innocent children of the world. And it is the image of massive death of innocents that has been the driving force for me to continue my struggle against the ultimate evil of nuclear weapons.
Eiji’s image is burnt into my retina.
As a 13-year-old schoolgirl, I witnessed my city of Hiroshima blinded by the flash, flattened by the hurricane-like blast, burned in the heat of 4000 degrees Celsius and contaminated by the radiation of one atomic bomb. A bright summer morning turned into dark twilight with smoke and dust rising in the mushroom cloud — dead and injured covering the ground, begging desperately for water and receiving no medical care at all. The spreading firestorm and the foul stench of burnt flesh filled the air.
Many survivors of the nuclear bombs over Hiroshima and Nagasaki have been passing in recent years with their dreams of nuclear abolition unfulfilled. Their motto was, “abolition in our lifetime”.
Nuclear weapons are far from abolished. As you know, the nuclear-armed states are continuing to upgrade and modernize their nuclear arsenals, and disarmament negotiations continue to be blocked while international tensions are on the rise.
But the world now has an historic opportunity to achieve something remarkable.
Over the past five years, I have witnessed the mounting momentum of a global movement involving states without nuclear weapons and NGOs working together to achieve the elimination of nuclear weapons. This movement has shown beyond all doubt that nuclear weapons are first and foremost a grave humanitarian problem, and that the terrible risks of these weapons cast all techno-military considerations into irrelevance. Following three International Conferences on the Humanitarian Impact of Nuclear Weapons, a United Nations Working Group recommended that negotiations commence in 2017 for a legally binding instrument to ban nuclear weapons.
This proposal is now on the table.
At the end of this month, all governments will vote yes or no to starting negotiations of a treaty that will prohibit nuclear weapons. I beseech you to vote yes, with every fiber of my being, and to participate actively in negotiations next year to expose and legally challenge this most inhumane and unacceptable instrument of mass murder.
The number of people who experienced the catastrophic humanitarian suffering caused by nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki are rapidly diminishing. This is an historic moment for us, for you, and for the world.
Let us seize this opportunity to ban nuclear weapons – in our lifetime. For all the children, like my nephew Eiji, and you can imagine your own children, and the children who will be born — that they might inherit the privilege to love and enjoy our one shared world. Nothing less is at stake.
You have the power to make this happen.
I beg you to use it.