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August 29 is the International Day Against Nuclear Tests.
The ATOM Project has initiated a global moment of silence on that day to honor all victims of nuclear weapons testing. Kazakhstan suffered more than 450 Soviet nuclear weapons tests at the Semipalatinsk site beginning August 29, 1949 and ending on that date in 1991 when Kazakhstan’s first and current President Nursultan Nazarbayev, responding to the a civil society campaign, shut down the site.
There are no more nuclear tests in Kazakhstan, but the impact on human health will be felt for generations to come. More than 1.5 million Kazakh citizens have already been seriously affected, suffering early death, lifelong debilitating illness and horrific birth defects.
In 2012, Kazakhstan President Nazarbayev launched The ATOM Project, a global initiative led by victims of nuclear tests, to help bring into force the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) and show world leaders that the public worldwide is united in its desire to eliminate nuclear weapons.
“We are calling for people around the world to observe 11:05 a.m. their local time as a moment of silence,” says ATOM Project Honorary Ambassador Karipbek Kuyukov. “That time was chosen because the clock hands show a V, which stands for victory. This moment is meant to signify a victory of common sense over fear and a victory for global efforts towards a nuclear-weapons-free world.”
Kuyukov himself is an example of victory over nuclear tests. Born with no arms, and with other health complications from the effects of radiation on his parents, Kuyukov has become an accomplished artist who paints with his mouth and feet. One of his paintings depicting a nuclear test in Kazakhstan was presented to President Obama at the Nuclear Security Summit earlier this year.