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Friday, October 19, 2007

Uranium Weapons: Contributing to a Dangerous World - A Report by Yumiko Kikuno

In October 2nd and 3rd, ICBUW (International Coalition to Ban Uranium Weapons), which was established in Belgium in October 2003, hosted the International Conference of Banning Uranium Weapons in New York. During the meeting, about 60 participants, who came from Europe, North and South America, and Japan, learned new facts and shared their information. I received support from Peace Philosophy Centre, which was one of the members of ICBUW, and attended the conference on behalf of the Centre.

On the first day, speakers reported the current situations for the campaign of banning uranium weapons in their countries. They said that although they still had some difficulties to deal with to promote the campaign, they were getting more attention from media and politicians. For example, activists in Costa Rica brought the information to the public to show the reason why Costa Rica had to care about uranium weapons. Now the movement to ban uranium weapons has spread across Latin America.

The next theme was DU and Laws. Melissa Sterry, a Gulf Veteran, from the US explained to us how they got the veteran testing bills passed in some states. In addition, Ria Verjauw from Belgium, the first country in the world to ban uranium weapons, told its process to reach the goal. I thought we could be able to apply their strategies or processes to Canada, too. After that, Herbert Reed, an Iraq veteran, shared his story as a victim of DU weapons. He said that some veterans hesitated to tell that their bodies might be contaminated by DU because they were concerned about losing their jobs or being refused to buy insurance. However, Mr. Reed said, “I will keep telling the truth to let people know about DU weapons.”

On the second day, participants learned scientific research results of uranium. Specialists reported that uranium itself was toxic heavy metal and damaged DNA, explained the differences between conventional weapons and depleted uranium weapons, and demonstrated that victims were not only soldiers and people in battle fields but also workers and residents in mining uranium places.

Finally, ICBUW delivered its future visions of the campaign. Some participants pointed out that the contents of the meeting in NY focused more on American veterans than on Iraqi people. I agreed with it, but I thought that it was important and effective to take up the health issues of American veterans first in order to raise awareness in the US.

Although the situations in Iraq were not discussed that much in the conference, they were introduced in other ways. JIM-NET, an organization that provides medical support to Iraqi Children, displayed many colourful pictures that Iraqi children drew. I felt as if the drawings tried to show me that children in Iraq had their dream and hope even though they were in hard circumstances. In addition, many pictures that Naomi Toyoda, a photo journalist, took in Iraq were shown to participants.

Peace Philosophy Centre will host an event on the DU issue on Saturday, November 10th, in which I will report more details and strategies that I learned in the conference in NY. In addition, I will show you a picture that an Iraqi girl drew. I hope you could feel her dream and hope from her drawing. If you are interested in the event, please contact Peace Philosophy Centre.

Yumiko Kikuno
Peace Journalist

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