Despite postponed visit, chemical-weapon victims support organization MOCT pledges to continue citizen exchanges after learning of Iran chaos from phone conversations

by Michiko Tanaka, Staff Writer

Shizuko Tsuya, 64, chairperson of MOCT, an NPO located in Higashi Ward, Hiroshima, that supports the victims of chemical weapons used in the Iran-Iraq War, fully comprehended the recent chaos in Iran from telephone conversations with her friends living there. Ms. Tsuya is distressed at the intensification of conflict between the United States and Iran. She had intended to visit Tehran, Iran’s capital, on January 14, but was forced to postpone her visit on January 8. “While keeping a hold of their hands, I intend to support isolated Iranian citizens and vow to continue citizen exchanges,” she said.

Ms. Tsuya had originally planned to visit Tehran for six days. A book that introduces MOCT activities was recently published in Iran, and she was invited to a ceremony to celebrate its publication. However, on the day Iran conducted retaliatory strikes against U.S. military forces, she received a telephone call from the organization scheduled to accept her visit. Ms. Tsuya took away a great sense of urgency from the tone of the caller’s voice, which expressed the difficulty of predicting the situation in the future and suggested postponement of her visit.

MOCT started its support activities for chemical-weapons victims in 2004. By visiting the victims in Iran and inviting them to, for example, the Hiroshima Peace Memorial Ceremony, changes in thinking were perceptible. “Those who had expressed hostility toward the United States began to say that they wanted to use their energy on creating peace rather than exacting revenge. I think empathy changes people and eventually will lead to the creation of peace,” said Ms. Tsuya, expressing her belief in the power of grassroots exchange.

From contact with her friends in Iran, Ms. Tsuya felt the fatigue the Iranian people are experiencing in their daily lives. According to friends, because of U.S. economic sanctions, the cost of food and gasoline has soared, and medicine is unavailable.

“I strongly believe that many citizens don’t want war. I hope to understand the concerns of the Iranian people and call on Japanese people to raise their voices and move toward a peaceful world.” As soon as the situation has calmed, she says she will visit Iran to fulfill her promises.

(Originally published on January 9, 2020)