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ICBUW-Japan commemorates 10th Anniversary - U.S. March 2003 Iraq Occupation

Report from ICBUW-Japan on their nationwide activities to mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
9 May 2013 - Isabel Macdonald and ICBUW-Japan

Furitsu and al-ali present To mark this regrettable anniversary, ICBUW-Japan planned activities in Hiroshima, Osaka, Tokyo and Fukushima. They were to be accompanied by invited guests from Basra, Iraq, Dr. Jawad Al-ali, Dr. Kareem Al-emara and ICBUW Steering Committee member, Isabel Macdonald, from the San José Quaker Peace Center, Costa Rica.  A book published by ICBUW-Japan was also to be presented, as part of an ongoing commitment to remember the cruelty and destruction caused by the conflict.

Iraq-10 book cover The book entitled The Unending Iraq War: Questioning Anew from Fukushima, edited by N. Kazashi, H. Moritaki and N. Toyoda, includes 13 reports and messages by the scholars, journalists, activists who have been involved in the Iraq War-related problems, as well as photos by N. Toyoda.

Fukushima, site of the accident at the Daiichi nuclear power plant two years ago, was the first destination for the invited guests and ICBUW colleagues. Due to their involvement in the treatment of cancer at the Basra Oncology Center, including patients exposed to depleted uranium weapons radiation used over their city in 1991 and 2003, the Iraqi doctors have seen their fair share of suffering. The visit to Fukushima provided the opportunity to exchange impressions with colleagues and residents of the area affected by the earthquake, tsunami and ongoing radiation.

A visit to the abandoned town of Iitate, while on the way measuring radiation levels with a Geiger counter, was a grim reminder that no community should be subject to invisible, toxic, radioactive contamination.

Mortaki macdonald itate
Ms. Moritaki, I. Macdonald - Iítate – contaminated storage site  

Photographs taken by Naomi Toyoda capture the tragedy post March 2011: an intimate, moving, heart wrenching portrayal of personal losses, abandoned towns, contaminated agricultural soils, families now separated by relocation, lives turned upside down.  The situation is magnified by the uncertainty caused by the ongoing radiation which does not allow an already difficult healing process to begin.

Naomi exhibition tokyo
Naomi Toyoda at Tokyo exhibition     

Visit to contaminated graveyard
Visiting loved ones in a radiation contaminated area (photo: N. Toyoda)

Earlier photographs taken by Naomi on several trips to Iraq have been a powerful reminder of the reality forgotten by many reflected in the faces of victims of war.  His photographs of Fukushima similarly are a call to action.

In a gathering at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum introduced by Professor Nobuo Kazashi and Ms. Moritaki of NO DU Hiroshima Project, the Iraqi doctors provided an overview of the situation in Iraq and their efforts to collect, analyze and monitor increases in cancers. With regard to the use of depleted uranium, a lack of transparency on the locations where these weapons were fired by the U.S and the U.K make it difficult to carry out comparative research on the ground.  However research points to a notable rise in the incidence rate of congenital birth defects and cancers over the last twenty years.

Sharing with the audience slides of patients he has treated, Dr. Al-Ali presented a personal account of illnesses and deaths due to the 2003 invasion, as well as the 1991 attack on his country. Women especially have been affected with a threefold increase in breast cancers in the last ten years.

Isabel Macdonald, described efforts in Latin America to support the movement to ban uranium weapons.  After organizing the First Latin American Conference on Uranium Weapons in Costa Rica in March 2009, local activists achieved a national ban on the weapons in Costa Rica in 2011. The second country after Belgium to pass a national law, in support of international efforts in this direction. Her report about their concrete actions leading to Costa Rica’s domestic ban was a very encouraging and empowering message to the Japanese audience in Hiroshima and other cities.

Attending the Hiroshima event, journalist Akira Tashiro, author of the book Discounted Casualties (a comprehensive account of the harm caused by depleted uranium worldwide), wrote the following article.

A gathering in Osaka on the 20th of March, introduced by Dr Katsumi Furitsu, provided another opportunity to reflect and share information, before traveling to participate in the Conference "IRAQ TEN" at Waseda University in Tokyo, which stimulated broad discussions, including the Japanese Government’s support of the U.S. invasion of Iraq, a breach of international law. Among several speakers, Rose Gentle, founding member of UK Military Families Against the War, denounced the UK government and their responsibility for thousands of deaths and destruction in Iraq, including the death of her son.

Workshop at waheda university The Depleted Uranium Workshop gathered a crowd of approximately 200 people and an opportunity to make contacts for future cooperation. One participant will be traveling to Costa Rica in June and has offered to speak on Japanese resistance to U.S. military bases at the Quaker Peace Center.  Maki Sato, Executive Director of Japan Iraq Medical Network (JIM-NET) spoke about the humanitarian work his group is involved with in several cities in Iraq by providing medicine, medical expertise, equipment and other humanitarian support needed by child victims of cancer.

The next morning provided the opportunity to meet with members of the Depleted Uranium Working Group in the Japanese Parliament. Members of the Social Democratic Party, Democratic Party, Restoration Party and an advisor to the Green Wind Party were present.  Committee members were invited to support efforts among parliamentarians in countries actively supporting legislation to eliminate the use of uranium weapons in wars.  We will report back in the near future with advances regarding this initiative.

Tokyo parliament

Meeting in parliament in Tokyo.

To mark the 10th anniversary of the 2003 invasion, a new report published by IKV Pax Christi and ICBUW, In a State of Uncertainty, has highlighted continuing uncertainties over the impact and legacy of the use of 400 tonnes of depleted uranium weapons in Iraq. The report reveals the extent of DU’s use in civilian areas for the first time.

On the last day of an unforgettable visit, 7,000 people gathered in a large auditorium in Fukushima city to mark the second anniversary of the nuclear meltdown. The passionate and unanimous call for an end to nuclear power in Japan and the need to assume this responsibility for the next generations resounded with a strong sense of urgency.

As stated by the mayor of this beautiful scenic town: “With other types of catastrophes, after a reasonable amount of time people can start again from zero. But in the battle with radiation — invisible, colourless, scentless — we have to start from minus 10 or minus 20 or who knows minus how much just to work to zero. It means spanning generations and continuing the fight while battling the terrible fear and anxiety.

ICBUW-Japan will continue its efforts to ban uranium weapons, nuclear weapons and to support members of communities affected by radiation caused by the nuclear power plant. Our hearts go out to the cry of the 7,000 gathered recently: to ensure no more Fukushimas in the future.

Youtube: Nuclear Refugees 「原発避難民」the people of Iitate Village 飯舘村の皆さん, 一年後