NEW YORK -- A prominent atomic-bomb survivor expressed joy over the adoption of a historic treaty banning nuclear weapons at the United Nations headquarters here on July 7, while bringing to light the suffering that survivors have gone through in a powerful speech.
"I have been waiting for this day for seven decades, and I am overjoyed that it has finally arrived," said Setsuko Thurlow, an 85-year-old atomic bomb survivor now based in Canada, after over 120 nations adopted the treaty.
Her speech to an audience that included the president of the U.N. conference on nuclear weapons ban treaty, various ambassadors and workers from numerous nongovernmental organizations was met with applause that lasted for a full minute. Thurlow also spoke about her enduring wish for nuclear weapons to be abolished and said that it now felt special that such a treaty had actually been adopted.
The atomic bomb that fell on Hiroshima struck when the octogenarian was 13. At the time, she was approximately 1.8 kilometers away from the hypocenter. Her parents survived but her 4-year-old nephew died after incurring severe burns to his skin. Having experienced such suffering, Thurlow told delegates that no human should have to die in this way, and stressed the importance of creating a nuclear weapons-free world so that Hiroshima and Nagasaki A-bomb victims would not have died in vain.
However, on the day the treaty was finalized, the Japanese government stated again that it would not be one of the signatories -- a decision that Thurlow finds very frustrating. She is critical of Japan's stance on nuclear weapons, saying that Japan has done nothing despite being the only nation in the world to have been hit by atomic bombs and claiming that the country would lead the anti-nuclear weapons movement.
The Netherlands took part and voted against the treaty, even though other NATO member states boycotted the negotiations. In spite of its negative vote, Thurlow praised the country for joining the talks, saying that the North European nation listens carefully to other countries and has adopted a sincere approach.
Thurlow told the audience that there would be no return to failed nuclear deterrence policies and that signatory countries would not support violence imposed by nuclear weapons. She also said the new treaty would help prevent the lives of future generations being put at risk.
Thurlow believes that the pact can be regarded as part of the shift from a world dominated by nuclear powers to the one in which smaller countries that believe nuclear weapons are unnecessary lead the way.
"Nuclear weapons have always been immoral. Now they are also illegal," Thurlow said during her address. "Together, let us go forth and change the world."