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The moonflower Aigul

Nuclear Monitor Issue: 
Special: Women respond to the nuclear threat

(May 11, 1999) "Everything started with my Mum," Milya Kabirova said when I asked her about the roots of the popular movement 'Aigul'. "My Mum and all her children paid high costs for mistakes of the nuclear industry. Or maybe there were no mistakes. Maybe those who decide to produce nuclear weapons simply ignore human health and lives."

(509/10.aigul) Nathalie Mironova -My happy Shagiachmetov's family lived on the bank of the river Techa in the Ural. Since 1948, nuclear waste was drained into the river, and in 1950 the river was fenced off. There was a policeman who prevented people from bathing and using its water for household needs. Our Mum worked on the river as sample-taker of water and soil. And we, the kids, of course tried to help her somehow. As a result five of us have suffered from radiation sickness. In spite of this, our family had neither privileges, nor allowance.

My husband is a council member of the Movement for Nuclear Safety. He suggested that Mum prosecute the Mayak complex. After some hesitation whether it's possible to fight against such a huge facility, my Mum agreed. During four years we sought medical confirmation that our diseases were the results of Mayak activities. We learned a lot and people began asking us for advice, especially women whose grandchildren were the third generation suffering from Mayak. And we understood that we had to unite. Only together could we achieve something. That was the moment our organization Aigul was created. Aigul means moonflower. We chose this name because it is a very fascinating and feminine flower. And it also has something horrible. Aigul grows not in sunlight, but under the moon, like a ghost.

Together with the Movement for Nuclear Safety, we designed the project; We don't want to give birth to mutants!' and won a grant from the Ford Foundation. Initially we fought for the decision to resettle our village. We thought it was the way to save the next generations. But now we doubt whether this resettlement would be for the good of all. The fact is that old people don't want to leave the place, to leave the land they worked on and lived from, to move to five-stories of stone boxes. But to refuse such a flat means you have to live alone on the radioactive river bank. We thought about a total resettlement of the whole Muslumova village to a clear place with clear forest and clear water body.

Aigul has a lot of plans. Among them there is enlightenment work. We want people to know about radiation, about its dangers, and how it is possible to decrease the risks of living in a contaminated environment. We fought and we will fight for our rights in courts. It's a very hard but also a very necessary job.

Aigul is a very tender moonflower. But what can we do, the tender and ;weak' women, if there is an obvious threat to our children? They are the greatest treasure for us, and we have to be not only tender, but strong and brave.

"There is no way to step back: our children are behind us."

Contact: Aigul, Nathalie Mironova, 2 Shagolskaya
36-34 54015 Chelyabinsk, Russia.
Tel: +7-3512-288493; Fax: +7-3512-375163

The Mayak complex

Mayak, 70 km north of Chelyabinsk, in the southern Urals, is a large military nuclear complex. From the late 1940s to early 1950s, five military reactors were built for plutonium production. They were shut down from 1987 to 1990. Two other reactors are still operating, producing tritium for nuclear weapons and electricity.

The only operating reprocessing plant is located here too, the RT1, which has separated about 30 tons of plutonium. There is also a pilot plutonium fuel (MOX) plant operating. During 50 years very large quantities of radioactive wastes have been released, mainly into the Techa river and into several lakes. The Karachai lake contains about 120 million Curies. Many accidents have taken place which caused large releases of radioactivity. The largest was the Kysthym accident in 1957, when stored nuclear waste exploded and a large area was severely contaminated and evacuated.