Last year, Beatrice Fihn — a 36-year-old feminist Swede — accepted the Nobel Peace Prize for her work as director of the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). In her acceptance speech, she described nuclear arms as “a madman’s gun held permanently to our temple.” ICAN was recognized for drafting the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, a landmark accord adopted by 122 non-nuclear countries at the United Nations. It remains open for signatures and will go into effect as soon as 50 countries have ratified it. So far, 19 nations have done so.
On Sunday, October 21, Fihn will receive the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation’s leadership award at its 35th annual Evening for Peace. The Independent talked with her by email this week.
Why are most of us so passively accepting of a nuclear world? For too long, many of us were content to ignore the threat and assume somebody was in charge. But this has changed over the last two years. The cooler heads and reasonable voices we envisioned controlling our nuclear missiles turned into men shouting on Twitter about the size of their nuclear buttons. We can no longer ignore these objects of global destruction buried by the thousands beneath our feet.
In your Nobel acceptance speech, you emphasized that “man — not woman — made nuclear weapons to control others.” What point were you making here? Nuclear weapons are instruments of inequality and tools of the oppressive patriarchy. Women have always been at the forefront of cleaning up the catastrophic messes created by the patriarchal structures of militarization. Our campaign is led by women, working alongside outstanding activists, doctors, lawyers, and scientists. We also follow in the footsteps of the women who banned chemical and biological weapons, landmines, and cluster munitions.
What do you make of Trump’s denuclearization negotiations with Kim Jong Un? Any negotiations to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula will only be successful if they are internationalized and built on existing treaty frameworks like the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons. And there is a flawed assumption that Donald Trump and Kim Jong Un have our collective best interests in these negotiations. From pulling out of a successful deal with Iran to taunting the North Korean leader with “fire and fury,” Donald Trump has showed us time and time the dangers of placing our lives in the hands of a couple of fragile men.
What are your thoughts on Assemblymember Monique Limón’s recent resolution that urges our federal leaders to join the treaty? We happily welcome Assembly Joint Resolution 33 and exhort more communities across the U.S. to follow suit. However, the problem with nuclear weapons in California is extensive, as California-based companies enable with finance, technology, and logistics the nuclear weapons industry, and public institutions like the University of California enable nuclear weapons development by managing the nation’s nuclear weapons laboratories, funded by California taxpayers. Citizens must continue to put pressure on local authorities to move away from a security policy based on nuclear weapons, which is merely based on luck and fear.