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2001 to the present in Bamiyan

by Mohammad Reza Sharifi last modified Aug 14, 2012 10:56 PM

--> The demolishment and the illegal exportation of cultural heritage

In March 2001, the eyes of the world were on Bamiyan as Taliban dynamited its monumental Buddha statues. They were destroyed following a decree proclaimed by Mullah Omar in February 2001 ordering destruction of “all non-Islamic statues and tombs considered offensive to Islam”.

When Mullah Omar announced this degree UNESCO immediately issued appeals to Taliban leaders through the international press, exhorting them to preserve afghan culture heritage. The director general addressed a personal letter to the Taliban leader on 28 February. He also obtained the full support of many Islamic countries for UNESCOs activities to save the afghan culture heritage.

On 1 march especial representative of the Director General left for the Islamabad, Kandahar, Kabul, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. A number of Muslim religious leaders from Egypt, Iraq and Pakistan intervened at the request of UNESCO, issuing “fatwas” against the Taliban’s order. The director-general personally contacted the presidents of Pakistan and Egypt, as well as of the organization of the Islamic Conference, all of whom tried to use their influence to persuade the Taliban to cancel the order.

Following this interventions, a delegation of 11 international Muslim leaders went to Kandahar to try to convince the Taliban that the Koran does not prescribe the distraction of the statues. Nevertheless all these political and religious interventions proved to be in vain, and the Taliban destroyed to only the statues of Buddha at Bamiyan, but also a large number of the statues throughout Afghanistan.

After the destruction, in December 2001, an international conference of “Ulema”, Islamic religious leaders, was jointly organized by UNESCO, The Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), The Islamic Scientific, Educational and Cultural Organization (ALESCO), to examine the position of the Muslin world towards the preservation of Islamic and non-Islamic heritage. This conference resulted a clear declaration of principles on favor of the protection of cultural heritage, including statues, that can be appealed to the future.

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