As the summer days become shorter and shorter, The ATOM Project, the education and online petition campaign against nuclear tests and weapons, is preparing to take part in a major international conference dedicated to the International Day Against Nuclear Tests on Aug.29 in the country’s capital being put together by the Nobel Peace Prize-winning organisation, International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW).
Since its launch in 2012, to date The ATOM Project has mustered over 90,000 signatures in support of a nuclear-weapon-free future from more than 100 countries. The ATOM Project and its honorary ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov, a famous painter who was born armless near the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, have travelled across Europe, North America and Far East Asia in hopes of raising awareness among the citizens of the world. Kuyukov told The Astana Times about The ATOM Project, why it is relevant today and about the August 29 UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
How is your project relevant in a world where nuclear weapons tests are no longer frequently conducted?
Well, we all know that North Korea still conducts nuclear tests from time to time and while only one country is still testing, others have inklings to do that. The ATOM project is still important today because people around the world realise through common sense that we all live in fear and that one little red button is more powerful than the voices of millions. The ATOM Project serves as a reminder to humanity to stay alert against nuclear weapons. We need to educate people on the issue, show the consequences of nuclear tests and explosions and make sure neither Hiroshima nor Nagasaki happens again.
Why did you agree to campaign with The ATOM Project?
I have been campaigning against nuclear weapons all my life; it has become my cause as well as that of my family. I have heard too many stories from my father who has seen the terrible impact these tests have left on our country with his own eyes. Just recently, I came back from a funeral in Yegindybulak [100 kilometres from the former Semipalatinsk’s test site’s ground zero]; that family was also impacted by the tests. The person who had died suffered from a rare cancer; the past’s transgressions are still manifesting themselves years later.
What are you looking to accomplish before August 29, the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests?
At the moment, we are preparing for the UN International Day Against Nuclear Tests on Aug. 29. First of all, we are seeking to reach a 100,000-signature milestone. At the moment, we have a little over 92,000 names. We are also planning to host two exhibitions on this day, one depicting the legacy of nuclear disarmament in Kazakhstan and the other of my paintings, because my works, especially the recent ones, are related to nuclear weapons. I continue adding more and more paintings to my exhibition and we will continue spreading the word and educating the youth about the consequences of nuclear weapons. This day is our big day to do so. The International Day Against Nuclear Tests is held in hopes that one day, all nuclear weapons will be eliminated. Until then, we need to promote peace and security around the world. On Dec. 2, 2009, the 64th session of the United Nations General Assembly declared Aug. 29 the International Day against Nuclear Tests. This day was proposed by our President, Nursultan Nazarbayev, to commemorate the closure of the Semipalatinsk Nuclear Test Site on Aug. 29, 1991. The day calls for increasing awareness and education “about the effects of nuclear weapon test explosions or any other nuclear explosions and the need for their cessation as one of the means of achieving the goal of a nuclear-weapon-free world.
What would you say to your supporters?
To those who have signed the petition, I would like to say the following: If people want to leave a bright future for their children and live in a safe world full of fresh air, they should do as these people have. I also would want to encourage them to spread the word about our mission and The ATOM Project; people need to pass the news onto their kids, friends, neighbours, accountancies, colleagues and everyone they know as this is an important message. Sign the petition! Spread the word!
And to those who have not signed yet?
I call on them to sign the petition because so much is being spent on arms proliferation, senseless wars and demonstrations of power. All of this evil originates in greed. Those who have not yet signed might think that this issue will pass by, but they’re mistaken. The problems caused by radiation and nuclear explosions don’t discriminate based on race, hair colour or skin tone. Should this world see a nuclear war, the issue will concern all of us, so I think everyone should sign the petition and together we need to strive to create a nuclear-weapons-free world.