Hiroshima Speaks Out, Part 3: Maher Elsherbini, specially-appointed professor at Hiroshima University

by Kohei Okata, Staff Writer

Maher Elsherbini: Steps to building peace in the Middle East

Most of the people who live in the Middle East want to work, have a family, and live quiet lives. They don’t want to be involved in conflict. They want to solve problems through dialogue. They know that nuclear weapons kill indiscriminately and that they must be eliminated. Bringing peace to the Middle East isn’t easy, but serious efforts to find concrete measures to advance this aim are being made by many.

Concern about use of nuclear weapons by terrorists

The problems in the Middle East, which includes the de facto nuclear weapon state of Israel, have been long-standing issues of international importance. The 1995 session of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference, which is held every five years, decided on the indefinite extension of the NPT and the denuclearization of the Middle East. However, since then there hasn’t been substantial progress and the Review Conference in 2015 ended in failure because of discord between the United States and Arab nations regarding Middle East issues.

When the “Arab spring” began, I was worried that nuclear weapons might be used since we’re unable to clearly determine the nuclear capability of each nation. Now the power of governments is waning, and there are growing concerns that terrorists could acquire nuclear weapons. And they would use these weapons because they want to kill as many of their perceived “enemies” as possible.

If European nations stop accepting refugees from the Middle East, they will have nowhere to go. So the world must take the issues of the Middle East and the refugees seriously, because peace in the Middle East can lead to peace in the world.

Desire to inform the world about nuclear weapons

I’m from Egypt and I studied at Hiroshima University from 1987 to 1992. My specialty is the Japanese language, and I translated Hadashi no Gen (Barefoot Gen), which is a manga story about Hiroshima after the atomic bombing, into Arabic. The translation was published in January 2015. I have finished translating volumes 2 to 10 of the series, and they will be published as well.

Translating and publishing Barefoot Gen was something that would enable me to use my skills. Before I first came to Hiroshima, I knew that an atomic bomb had been dropped on the city, but I thought it was simply a large bomb and I had no concrete knowledge of the actual damage it caused. I suppose most people in the Middle East don’t know much about the atomic bombings, either. So I wanted to offer information through Barefoot Gen so they could come to understand that we must eradicate nuclear weapons and war.

The countries of the Middle East are unable to build nuclear weapons by themselves. The problem is that there are other nations which export their weapons or technology. In this sense, the Middle East is unable to build peace alone. The leaders of the world’s major nations should visit Hiroshima and gain a better understanding of the appalling destruction caused by nuclear weapons. They must give serious consideration not only to not possessing these arms themselves and not selling their technology to other countries, but they must also not permit other nations to use such weapons. It will only be meaningful when the national leaders who actually head these governments, and not simply their ambassadors, attend the annual Peace Memorial Ceremony on August 6.


Maher Elsherbini
Born in Egypt in 1959, Mr. Elsherbini graduated from the Department of Japanese Language and Literature at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. He obtained a doctorate degree from Hiroshima University Graduate School of Letters in 1992. In June 2015, he took the post of specially-appointed professor at Hiroshima University, while still serving as a professor at Cairo University. He has published Arabic translations of novelist Soseki Natsume’s Botchan and Kokoro among others.

(Originally published on April 4, 2016)