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Astana, October 11: Kazakhstan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the United Nations in Kazakhstan, the Nevada-Semey Anti-Nuclear Movement and the Civic Alliance of Kazakhstan announced the winners of the National Student Art and Essay Contest which explored the topic “A World Free from Nuclear Weapons” to mark the 20th anniversary of the closure of the Semipalatinsk test site.

The official award ceremony took place on October 11, ahead of the International Forum for a Nuclear Weapons Free World opening tomorrow. It was attended by Kairat Umarov, Deputy Foreign Minister, Vladimir Shkolnik, President of the Kazatomprom National Atomic Company, Tomihisa Taue, Mayor of the Japanese city of Nagasaki, Chiyoko Motomura, Japanese atomic bomb survivor,  Stephen Tull, UN Resident Coordinator / UNDP Resident Representative in Kazakhstan, Alina Khamatdinova, Executive Director of the Civil Alliance of Kazakhstan, and Anambek Mukhashev, Vice-President of the Nevada-Semey International Antinuclear Movement.

Students from public, private and specialised art schools competed nationwide. More than 420 young participants submitted essays and art works for the contest. Student essays were judged on their research, knowledge and analysis of the subject, as well as supporting evidence, adherence to the topic, originality, and writing skills. Entries for the art contest were judged on their creativity and originality.

The three winners in both nominations were awarded iPads2 for their essays or drawings depicting their vision of how to build a world free from nuclear weapons.

Akmaral Manapova, a 15-year old from the Ainabulak village in Eastern Kazakhstan, took first place. Akmaral related her personal experience when two years ago her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and later had an operation to remove one breast. That was followed by a long process of chemical therapy. In her essay Akmaral writes, “I believe my wish for a future world free from nuclear weapons is shared by children all over the world.” She also urges her peers across the globe, “If nuclear weapons are ever tested in your land, stand against them! Let us say no to tests! Children of the world, let us stand against them as one united nation of the world!”

Dinislam Bekkaliyev, a 17-year old from Almaty, was the second place winner. He expressed his ideas and thoughts in verse. In his poem Dinislam asks, “Is a nuclear arsenal really necessary for a country to mount a political pedestal?!” He ends his poem by saying, “We are against a conniving indifference in the struggle for a world without nuclear weapons!”

Zhainar Nazymkyzy, a 16-year old from the Karauyl village in Eastern Kazakhstan placed third. The student born five years after the Semipalatinsk test site was closed and in the place that used to be the site’s epicentre writes about her long-suffering native land. She skilfully reconstructs the first explosion as if she were its witness. “Why didn’t the people who invented nuclear weapons ever think of their future consequences? This agonising question keeps haunting me.” This is why she calls the day when President Nursultan Nazarbayev closed the test site a truly historical event. “A new path opened in front of Kazakhstan. This was the path of long-lasting peace and blossoming creation. This happy moment has been written in golden letters in the history of the entire world.”

In the art contest among first through eighth graders, Sanzhar Begaidarov, an eight-year-old from Taraz, won first place. Zhanat Temirkhanov, 13, from Zhitikara in the Qostanay oblast, won second and Mukhtar Serikov, 14, from Qaraghandy took third place.

Each of the winning essays now appears online on the Ministry’s official website and all student drawings are on display at the Palace of Independence, the venue’s forum.

The competition was made possible by the generous support of the KazAtomProm National Atomic Company and the Civic Alliance of Kazakhstan.

Embassy of the Republic of Kazakhstan in Japan©2011