Ten years ago, the Bamiyan Buddhas in Afghanistan were destroyed by the Taliban while the world watched. These enormous statues had survived 1,500 years only to be blasted by dynamite. When the face on one of the buddhas stubbornly clung to the cliffside despite the blasts, the Taliban shot it off with rockets.
The international community begged for the Taliban to not destroy the statues. Other countries volunteered to care for the giant sculptures. The pleas went unanswered. One month after an announcement that they would be destroyed, they were.
It is said that the destruction was not only about “false idols” in the Islam faith (after all, they’d survived many centuries in this region), but instead was a response to the international community’s refusal to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. There were also economic sanctions that had been imposed which were disfavored.
|Archaeological and historical marvels destroyed by Islamism: the Bamiyan Buddhas, among the very few known Buddhas to be dressed in Greek attire. (Photo from the always-excellent Cultural Property and Archaeology Law blog.)|
Righfully, UNESCO is commemorating this disgusting event:
Unfortunately, I think UNESCO is going to have its hands full. The Islamists' next target? The Egyptian Pyramids.UNESCO will commemorate the 10th anniversary of the tragic destruction of the giant Buddha statues of Bamiyan with a forum on the event and a two-day experts’ meeting which will examine ways to preserve and present to the public the Cultural Landscape and Archaeological Remains of the Bamiyan Valley.
Ahead of the 10th anniversary, the Director-General, who will open the commemoration at UNESCO Headquarters urged the international community to protect the heritage of humanity from damage or destruction; turmoil, political appropriation and theft:
“Ten years ago UNESCO and the international community watched helplessly the destruction of the remarkable Buddha statues of Bamiyan. The two monumental statues had stood for one and a half millennia as proud testimonies to the greatness of our shared humanity. They were destroyed in the context of the conflict devastating Afghanistan and to undermine the power of culture as a cohesive force for the Afghan people.
“Since then, we have witnessed other instances where cultural heritage has fallen prey to conflict, political turmoil and misappropriation. All of us, governments, educators and the media, must raise awareness of the standards set by the World Heritage Convention of 1972, the Hague Convention on the Protection of Cultural Properties in the Event of Armed Conflict and its Protocol, and the Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.”
UNESCO does not favour rebuilding the Buddha statues, but the Experts Meeting will examine other ways to present their remains and niches while maintaining research and preservation in the Bamiyan Cultural Landscape. The site testifies to the region’s rich Gandhara school of Buddhist art that, during the 1st to 13th centuries, integrated different cultural influences from East and West. The property contains numerous Buddhist monastic ensembles and sanctuaries, as well as fortified edifices from the Islamic period.