Anniversary of the execution of martyre of Peace Nikos Nikiforidis

The recent International Peace Bureau Council meeting in Barcelona decided to make known internationally the case of the Greek antinuclear martyr NIKOS NIKIFORIDIS and sponsor an event in Athens in his memory.  Such a meeting was organized by PADOP at the Athens University on Monday March 5, 2018.

Speakers were:

Lisa Clark Co president of International Peace Bureau
Panos Trigazis president of PADOP
Spiros Kousinopoulos reporter author of a book about Nikiforidis
Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou president of The Greek Affiliate of IPPNW, representative of ICAN in Greece

With this occasion Lisa Clark;, Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou and Panos Trigazis were accepted in the morning by the minister of Foreign Affaires Mr George Katrougalos in the ministry in Athens. He wellcomed us and he said that thought it is difficult for Greece to sign now as government, we could act in the Parliament like Norway did and get a positive voting.So we will visit again the president of the parliamentarians to promote it

Presentation of Lisa Clark , Athens, 5 March 2018

Remembering our Humanity:

A guiding light for the movement to abolish nuclear weapons

I would like to start by thanking Panos Trigazis and the Observatory of International Organisations and Globalisation – PADOP for having invited me to Athens. Thanks to Panos, most of us in the International Peace Bureau discovered the historic figure of Nikos Nikiforidis and were very happy to be able to contribute to making his story known internationally.

I must confess that I did not know anything about Nikiforidis and am looking forward to this meeting to learn more.

I am the Co-President of IPB, of which PADOP is a member. IPB was founded in the early 1890s as a result  of consultations held at the Universal Peace Congresses, large gatherings held annually that brought together the national peace societies from a number of countries, primarily in Europe and North America. IPB is dedicated to the vision of a World Without War. Over the years 13 of its officers have been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize and the IPB itself won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1910. Today the IPB has member organizations (more than 300) all over the world. In its Constitution its main aim is defined as follows: The IPB exists to serve the cause of peace by the promotion of disarmament, by the non-violent prevention and resolution of conflicts, and through international cooperation.”

Our commitment to peace is based on the principles of non-violence. Our vision is of a positive peace, not a mere absence of war. In other words, today we feel that working for peace means addressing many and diverse phenomena, including: climate change, the destruction of the environment (Mother Earth), the privatisation of the commons (water), migration movements, the rise of rightwing populisms, religious fundamentalisms, the continued exploitation of countries in the global South by multinationals and States in the North, the growing inequality in all societies in the world, where an increasingly small number of very rich people get richer all the time.

IPB has, however, chosen to concentrate its activities on the promotion of disarmament. The main programmes are G-COMS, the Global Campaign on Military Spending, and our active engagement, alongside many of our member organizations, in the campaigns and actions for nuclear disarmament. Over the past few years we have participated actively in the Humanitarian Initiative aimed at the adoption of a international Treaty banning nuclear weapons.

And 2017 was a great year for all of us committed to the abolition of nuclear weapons! First of all, on 7 July, 122 States approved the adoption of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And then, recognizing the historic importance of this achievement, the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to the International Campaign for the Abolition of Nuclear Weapons, ICAN, that had achieved this result! And IPB is one of the international partners of ICAN,   which was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.

I would like to share with you a little of the history of this campaign. Originally launched by a few civil society organizations (notably IPPNW and ICRC) and a very small number of governments (Switzerland, Ireland, Norway, Austria, Mexico), it gradually gathered around it a much vaster coalition, in which we were all very active. It was called the Humanitarian Initiative, because it was based on a fundamental principle: we need to put humanity back in the centre of the process. No more geopolitical bargaining between States and their vested interests. Recognizing that no organization is today capable of remedying the disastrous damage that would be caused to humanity by a nuclear war, it becomes essential to ensure that no nuclear war is ever fought: the only way to guarantee that, is through the total abolition of all nuclear weapons. The moral imperative is to place humanity’s survival before any other consideration.

This coalition succeeded in getting UN General Assembly in December 2016 to decide “to convene in 2017 a United Nations conference to negotiate a legally binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons, leading towards their total elimination”. After two negotiating sessions in March and June-July, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapon was adopted on 7 July 2017.

Known in peace and disarmament circles as the Ban Treaty, this treaty has not yet entered into force, but its importance is already outstanding. Apart from the Nobel Peace Prize that ICAN was awarded, the process that led to it appears to me to exemplify how we in civil society can achieve our peace and human rights goals. Which is what Nikos Nikiforidis was doing all those years ago.

For many years all progress in nuclear disarmament had been stalled. Borrowing a tool from nonviolent conflict resolution toolkits, the original NGOs that launched the Humanitarian Initiative changed the perspective of the debate. Rejecting the geopolitical narrative of the nuclear weapons States, with their stories of how such dreadful weapons can contribute to security, we looked at nuclear weapons instead from the point of view of their indiscriminate and unacceptable consequences. In this we were following the example of what the Hibakushas (the survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings) have been doing for decades. We were demanding that the States take their decisions only after having listened to the victims. So, working for peace means judging actions based on the consequences for human beings and no longer relying on considerations relating exclusively to the security of the State.

And the content of the Ban Treaty is also exciting: in the Preamble the treaty is linked to the very first Resolution the United Nations ever adopted, in January 1946, where “We, the Peoples of the United Nations” committed to working towards nuclear disarmament. We feel that the adoption and entry into force of this treaty may well open the door to a new age of possible disarmament policies in the future: disarmament processes have, in fact, been stalled for a long time.

However, the most urgent task for us all right now is to ensure the largest possible number of States signs and ratifies the Treaty as quickly as possible. We know that no nuclear weapon State has participated in the process, and all of them have announced they will not sign. Their allies and those States under nuclear umbrellas have also, for the most part, expressed their intention not to sign, but in most of those countries civil society organizations are already mounting very effective campaigns with associations, NGOs, parliamentarians, mayors and all kinds of professionals to exert pressure on governments to join the process. There is little doubt that the majority of the populations in those countries wants to see this Ban Treaty enter into force. It is our task, as civil society organizations, to ensure that all governments understand they can no longer consider themselves superior because they possess nuclear weapons, for an international legal instrument now officially states that their use, threat of use, possession and development are illegal. Nuclear weapons States are not (yet) obliged to get rid of them, for they have not joined the treaty; but the loud and clear voice of the people everywhere, including in nuclear-umbrella States and in their own countries, will in the end make it impossible for governments to ignore civil society’s demands.

We believe that our aim should be to support an increasing stigmatization of nuclear weapons. A wide variety of Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) have for decades been working towards the abolition of nuclear weapons and we have now taken a further step towards their elimination. In the end, we will create such a groundswell of public opinion in favour of the Ban Treaty that even the nuclear weapon States will have to take notice. Our campaign will merely carry forward the same principles that enabled us – the majority of the world’s population – to achieve the Ban Treaty: the realization that the survival of humanity and of the planet is not compatible with the continued existence of nuclear weapons.

Especially in these days of heightened international tensions, it is the task of peace and disarmament activists (and of human rights advocates!) to lead the way in showing that human security must remain our primary concern. Military solutions do not work for peace. Right now, it is ever more urgent to ensure that people know all there is to be known about the consequences of nuclear weapons. And part of this activity should also involve disseminating the history of all the movements, individuals, organizations that have always struggled for atomic and then nuclear weapons to be outlawed, dismantled, abolished. That nuclear weapons today should never be considered a symbol of power, but the most damning symbol of ruthless power politics, riding roughshod over humanitarian concerns.

Nikos Nikiforidis certainly deserves to be numbered among these members of our “family tree”. And I will hear more about him from you. But let me mention a few others, who have guided my commitment to nuclear disarmament over the years.

First (not chronologically), Sean MacBride, who was President of IPB and Chairman of the Board for many years. MacBride was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1974 as the founder of Amnesty International; he was also at that time involved in negotiating peace and independence for Namibia and had been very active in the establishment of the Council of Europe and in the preparation of the European Convention on Human Rights. Yet, when he delivered his acceptance speech, in Oslo, he concentrated on what he considered the greatest threat to humanity; the first step towards peace, he said, must be the outlawing of nuclear weapons.

Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein: their Appeal “Remember your humanity and forget the rest” was addressed to the world’s heads of State and government meeting at the United Nations General Assembly in 1955, ten years after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They showed the world that intellectuals, scientists, academics could speak their mind freely in favour of disarmament and peace, and that they could unite across national boundaries with their colleagues sharing some fundamental human values. Not treason, but love for mankind.

In Italy, we had Giorgio La Pira, mayor of Florence. Shocked by the atomic bombings of 1945, he set about to create an organization that could unite the cities of the world. Now, many years after his death, his dream has been realized: the UCLG is now an umbrella organization bringing together cities and local governments from all over the world. La Pira believed that no State should ever be allowed to sentence a city to death, as had happened in Hiroshima and Nagasaki. And from this he developed his idea of city diplomacy. In 1955 he invited to Florence the mayors of the world’s capital cities. 56 attended. In Palazzo Vecchio, the historic site of Florence’s Town Hall, he seated next to each other the Mayors of Moscow and Washington, of Paris and Prague, of London and Warsaw, as well as the Mayor of Hanoi, of Vientiane, of Mexico City and even some Mayors of African cities (like Dakar) whose countries had not yet gained independence from their European colonial masters. La Pira left us many writings, but one of his thoughts keeps on coming to my mind in our work for disarmament and peace: “Nation States come and go, over the centuries, but cities remain. Cities are human communities that know how to solve the problems of living together without resorting to war. Cities actively plan their actions to ensure that future generations of citizens can benefit from community assets. Cities do not use armies to solve their problems.”

Mayors for Peace, founded in the 1980s by the Mayors of the Cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, is an association predicated on the elimination of all nuclear weapons. “In order that no other city may have to suffer what our cities went through.” The Japanese mayors did not know anything about Giorgio La Pira. When, about 15 years ago, I told Mayor Akiba from Hiroshima about La Pira’s vision, he exclaimed, “La Pira was the prophet of Mayors for Peace.”

Hibakusha is the word used to denote the inhabitants of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who survived the atomic bombings. Many of them have made it their life’s mission to tell their story, travelling around the world, so that people can understand what nuclear weapons can do. Their mission: abolition of nuclear weapons. The confederation of Hibakusha victims of A and H bombs, Nihon Hidankyo, is also a member of IPB, as are Gensuikin and Gensuikyo, the broad-based Japanese organizations that organize the campaigns for nuclear disarmament. Over the years, of course, one makes many friends and I would like to remember one in particular, Seiko Ikeda, from Hiroshima, who told me: “I am old, I am getting tired, but I will only be able to rest in peace when all nuclear weapons have been outlawed.” And another Hibakusha, who played a very important role, recounting his story over and over again, was Sumiteru Taniguchi from Nagasaki, who died last August: so, although he didn’t witness the Nobel Peace Prize to ICAN, he did learn about the adoption of the Treaty before his death.

Of course, the star during the negotiations for the Ban Treaty was Setsuko Thurlow! And she shared with Beatrice Fihn, the Executive Director of ICAN, the honour of delivering the Nobel acceptance speech in Oslo last December.  You will have seen pictures of the two of them, I’m sure!

And let us not forget Stanislav Petrov, who also died in 2017. His story is well-known: a Soviet officer who received an alarm signal suggesting that a nuclear attack had been launched from the USA in 1983. Petrov, however, considered that, if the USA were going to attack the Soviet Union, they would launch a massive first strike, so as to wipe out all major command and control centres. But his signals showed only 5 missiles. So, Petrov thought it must be a mistake of the machine and ordered no retaliation. He is now known as the Man Who Saved the World!

There are other soldiers, even generals, who have spoken out against nuclear weapons. Not against war, it’s their profession after all: so we do not agree on that. But against the indiscriminate effects of nuclear weapons, which are not capable of distinguishing between combatant and non-combatant. US Army General Omar Bradley, who arrived in Hiroshima just days after the bombing, wrote in dismay at what he saw: “We have grasped the mystery of the atom and rejected the Sermon on the Mount. The world has achieved brilliance without conscience. Ours is a world of nuclear giants and ethical infants. We know more about war than we know about peace, more about killing than we know about living.”

So, intellectuals, scientists, soldiers, Mayors, victims. But others also contributed to civil society’s long struggle against nuclear weapons. International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War brought together physicians from the two nuclear superpowers: their oath is to cure human beings and there is an ethic that physicians anywhere share. When, during the Cold War, IPPNW brought together Soviet and American doctors to discuss how they could best share their knowledge to help their fellow-citizens in the case of nuclear war, the relationship between them developed into something more: they soon began to engage in concrete actions in favour of disarmament agreements preventing war. In the name of the common humanity of their peoples. IPPNW also won the Nobel Peace Prize, in 1985, for having contributed to disseminate information on the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war.

IPPNW founded ICAN in 2007. And so we come full circle, although the list of the heroes in our Pantheon is longer than this. From all walks of civil society, in fact, there have been outspoken leaders and masses of activists fighting for the abolition of nuclear weapons in all countries, on all continents. People’s diplomacy may take longer, but it works. Nikos Nikiforidis was indeed one of the forerunners of our movements.

The last part of our nuclear disarmament activities, the part that brought us all together under the ICAN umbrella, has been a remarkable process. I have said that our movement changed the perspective: negotiations no longer based on notions of State security or on military alliances, but focusing entirely on the humanitarian consequences. Putting the human security back at the centre of the debate. But this has also been an exercise in democracy. It is no longer the (few) Nuclear Weapons States that dictate the rhythm of the discussion: the majority of non-nuclear weapons States are once again enfranchised. The majority (peoples and States) are no longer merely asking the nuclear powers not to use their deadly weapons, we are saying that even possession of them is no longer acceptable. A stigma shall envelop nuclear weapons: this will develop out of the Ban Treaty, just like it did when the peoples of the world fought to have bans adopted on chemical and biological weapons, on cluster munitions and landmines, all weapons that are indiscriminate and unacceptable in their consequences.

And I could not help feeling that in the Preamble to the Ban Treaty I could hear echoes of “We, the Peoples of the United Nations,” meaning WE, civil society, local communities… our voices are being heard loud and clear!

The Ban Treaty finally rejects the notion of deterrence, a policy which implies that the leaders of a State are ready to put the survival of their own people on the line in a wicked, reckless gamble that this will deter the enemy: the leaders of both sides, in deterrence, are willing to sacrifice even their own people. For what? For a victory that would be nothing less than the end of civilization as we know it.

Right now, all nine nuclear powers are planning modernizations of their nuclear arsenals, in violation of the Non Proliferation Treaty that five of them are party to. Not to mention the risk of accidents: there have been many over the decades, but somehow the world’s luck has held out, never have there been serious consequences. This risk is increasing due to cyberwarfare. It is indeed terrifying.

Yet, it is not fear that has motivated all those people and movements I listed above. It was not fear for his life, that motivated Nikos Nikiforidis, I’m sure. We feel that if we join forces we shall become the majority and, now that we have put democracy and a focus on human security back into the centre of the discussion, we shall see a better future, a saner future, one in which successive generations shall be spared from the horrors of nuclear war. Our work is not finished with the adoption of the Ban Treaty. We need to ensure that all or most of the 122 States who voted for it will now sign and ratify it; then we need to convince so-called umbrella States, members of NATO, to join the process; and finally the stigma will be so powerful that the peoples of the most powerful nuclear weapons States will eventually force their governments to sit down and accept negotiating an end to the nuclear weapons’ age. Beatrice Fihn, in her Nobel speech, addressed the future with these words: The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons provides the pathway forward at a moment of great global crisis. It is a light in a dark time.

And more than that, it provides a choice.

A choice between the two endings: the end of nuclear weapons or the end of us.

It is not naive to believe in the first choice. It is not irrational to think nuclear states can disarm. It is not idealistic to believe in life over fear and destruction; it is a necessity.

by Panos Trigazis*

Under present conditions, it seems inconceivable that a 22-year-old fighter for the anti-nuclear movement was arrested, sentenced to death by court martial and executed in Thessaloniki, on a charge of collecting signatures under the Stockholm Appeal for the abolition and prohibition of all nuclear weapons. He was the first person (perhaps also the only one) in the world to suffer such a fate. At that time, the cold war was at its height on the international stage, and Greece was geographically on the border of the two worlds, the prevailing doctrine of its foreign policy being the “threat from the north”.

The Stockholm Appeal was adopted on 15 March 1950 by a world peace conference and accompanied by a campaign that collected more than 50 million signatures worldwide.  Below is the text of the Appeal:

We demand the outlawing of atomic weapons as instruments of intimidation and mass murder of peoples. We demand strict international control to enforce this measure.
We believe that any government which first uses atomic weapons against any other country whatsoever will be committing a crime against humanity and should be dealt with as a war criminal.
We call on all men and women of goodwill throughout the world to sign this appeal.”

Nikos Nikiforidis was the secretary of EPON – the youth movement of the National Liberation Front (EAM) – in Pagrati. After liberation from the Nazis, and because of the disastrous civil war in Greece, the country suffered the painful consequences of national discord, as did thousands of other National Resistance fighters. At the age of 18 Nikiforidis was exiled to the island of Ikaria and then to Makronisos, where he was brutally tortured. He was released in the spring of 1950 and became head of the Youth Peace Front, whose first duty was to promulgate the Stockholm Appeal. His family originated in Constantinople and came to Greece as refugees. Nikos Nikiforidis finished his secondary education at night school since he worked during the day.

The sacrifice of Nikiforidis has not been sufficiently publicized in the international anti-nuclear movement, perhaps because he was not a well-known political figure like Grigoris Lambrakis, who was also a university faculty member and a champion athlete in his youth. Even in Greece, the name of Nikos Nikiforidis is relatively unknown today, especially among young people.

Today however, when the anti-nuclear movement has re-emerged on the world stage after the Nobel Peace Prize was awarded to the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN)  in 2017 and after the successful adoption of the Convention on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, we as peace movements and as societies should honour the pioneering fighters of our movement.

Let us remember that, more than 70 years ago, the anti-nuclear movement was the first globalised one. Despite versions to the contrary, this movement has already achieved major victories, and has operated over time as a laboratory for radical ideas (the Green political movement, for example, emerged from its ranks). Its action was also responsible for the term “diplomacy of the peoples” or “diplomacy of the citizens” being adopted, given that the gigantic anti-nuclear movement functioned as the third, invisible negotiator in talks between the US and USSR in the final decades of the cold war.

Paying tribute to our struggles to date for peace, democracy and human rights, we must remain unwavering in our goal of abolishing and prohibiting all nuclear weapons. The time will come when, all nuclear powers, old and new, will be seated at the negotiating table, because as long as there are nuclear arsenals, there can be no global safety. As we say in Greece, “The only way to be safe from nuclear weapons is to abolish them”. Some thirty years or so after the end of the cold war, we are fully aware that the nuclear threat has not been removed. We were reminded of it by the nuclear accident at Fukushima in 2011, and now by the current Korean crisis.

Possessing nuclear weapons and building of nuclear factories cannot be the exclusive choice of one country, but are of concern to the whole world and especially to its neighbours. On these grounds, we are called upon to reintroduce the goal of creating denuclearized zones, the immediate priorities being a Middle East free of nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction, and for the Korean Peninsula to be nuclear-weapon-free.

PADOP has maintained relations with the Nikiforidis family and his surviving sister Olympia Nikiforidi, who participates in our events, and who also sailed on the Ship of Peace from Piraeus to Rome in 2016, in order to tell the shocking story of Nikos Nikiforidis.

*Panos Trigazis is president of the Observatory of International Organisations and Globalisation (PADOP) and advisor to the International Peace Bureau.

Presentation of Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou

(President of the Greek Affiliate of IPPNW-Representative of ICAN in Greece)

On 21 February 1951 a military court in Thessaloniki, Greece opened a court case which for many of you today would seem incomprehensable. Fourteen young people were found guilty of  “promulgating subversive ideas”. What they were actually doing was collecting signatures for the “Stockholm Appeal” which called for the total abolition of nuclear weapons. This appeal was created by the “World Peace Council” whose president was the Nobel Peace laureate physicist Fr. Joliot Curie.  In Greece it was supported by many people including famous poets such as Kostas Varnalis and distinguished bishops.

But why would a government execute one of its citizens for collecting signatures for nuclear abolition?  In order to understand this, we need to take a look at this period of Greek history.

First during the Second World War, Greece was attacked by Italy on October 28, 1940 and later was occupied by the Nazi Germany. There was a strong resistance movement against the Nazis who committed many war crimes against the civilian population, even massacring whole villages including children and pregnant women.

As World War II ended, the Cold War began. Truman, Stalin and Churchill divided Europe into spheres of interest, East and West.  Greece descended into a cruel civil war that lasted until 1950. In the years following the civil war, when the Greek government was very much under the influence of the US government, ideas about peace  were connected to communism and anybody who spoke about peace or against nuclear weapons was considered to be a communist which could bring a heavy penalty. Someone suspected of being a communist and even his family could find themselves facing unemployment, be sent into exile away from the family or in prison sometimes with even with torture. When Nikos Nikiforidis was just a student, he was exiled and tortured by Dimitris Ioannidis, who later became one of the leaders of the military junta, the dictatorship in Greece between 1967-1974.

This was the situation under which Nikiforidis was collecting signatures for nuclear abolition.  The military court decided that of the 14 people who had collected signature for the Appeal, Nikiforidis was the only one who should be condemned to death.  An international movement of support emerged and well known people like Albert Einstein and Pier and Marie Curie were asking the Greek government to reconsider.

It seemed as if he would be spared.  Prime minister Sofoklis Venizelos declared that “there are no more executions in Greece” (In fact the last execution in Greece was conducted in May 25 1972). Queen Frideriki assured Nikiforidis parents that they would pardon him. Despite all these assurances, Nikiforidis was executed on May 5 1951 at the age of only 22 years old.

Reports at the time said that his said at the time when he faced the firing squad.  “My execution has only one meaning, to suppress Peace movement”.  He cheered for Peace and stood alone in front of the guns.

Nikiforidis is the first martyr of the antinuclear peace movement, but he is not well known even in Greece. However the ideas he promoted with the Stockholm Appeal for nuclear abolition are spreading and momentum is growing.

67 years after Nikiforidis’ execution we continue to gather  signatures from our Parliamentarians in order to persuade our government to sign the historical Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons.

Today 5 counties USA, France, Britain, China and Israel possess nuclear weapons. 5 more, Belgium The Netherlands Germany Italy and Turkey are host to NATO’s nuclear arsenal. In USA they have increased spending to manufacture a new modern nuclear arsenal and in Russia they are modernizing theirs.  IPPNW, my organisation, released a medical report which said that even a small nuclear war would result in a change in the climate of the planet that would create famine and the death of 2 billion people on earth. There are no longer any nuclear weapons on Greek soil, but in Souda naval base we facilitate NATO’s ships and submarines carrying nuclear weapons. The continuing war in Syria, the crisis in Ukraine, the terrorist attacks in the heart of Europe, the in Cold War climate declarations from Donald Trump, Putin, the nuclear tests in North Korea … they are all facts that alarm us and make us more determined in our goal for nuclear weapons free world.

Much has been achieved, with the Historical Treaty, we celebrated ICAN’s Nobel Peace prize, but there is still much to be done.

Us, anti-nuclear activists, walking the path that Nikiforidis started with his sacrifice we will never stop until we achieve a nuclear free world.

Mr Spyros Kouzinopoulos said in details the history of Nikos Nikiforidis and asked for a new jury in order to declare him NOT guilty and justify his actions.

Mrs Anastasia Andreadaki (ecologist) and the president of the Immigrand movement adressed the audience on the importance of Peace andelebration of such anniversaries


Maria Arvaniti Sotiropoulou