As teams from Afghanistan and the Taliban are about to start direct negotiations in a bid to end the decades of conflict in the country, activists said they remain concerned about the fate of cultural heritage sites and relics and fear that the talks will create a situation in which the country’s historical treasures are destroyed.
An official of the National Museum showed two statues to TOLOnews from the Kushan Empire (30 CE – 375 CE ) and said they were damaged by the Taliban during their regime in Kabul in the late 1990s and that the statues had since been repaired. The two statues were found 80 years ago in Baghlan province.
During the Taliban regime, historical sites such as the two giant buddha statues in Bamiyan province, dating from 507 and 554 CE, were destroyed, along with many other ancient artifacts housed at the National Museum in Kabul, all because they were non-Muslim. The buddhas were detonated by the Taliban in March 2001.
“You know that even a mummy of Pharaoh is preserved in a place that is the host to the best Islamic madrasas. Dozens of our religious scholars have graduated from Al-Azhar University in Egypt. No real religious scholar has asked to destroy historical relics,” said Abdul Saboor Kamjo, head of the Kushan Empire heritages department of the National Museum.
According to National Museum officials, at least 2,500 statues and relics were destroyed or damaged by the Taliban during their regime and some of them have been repaired in the last 19 years.
“We call on the negotiators in Qatar to keep in mind that no one should damage the culture and art of this country anymore,” said Taimor Shah Hakimyar, a member of the high council of arts.
A group of other activists in Kabul has launched a campaign asking the peace negotiators to guarantee the safety of cultural heritage when it comes to compromises in the peace process.
“The Association for Antiquities Preservation asks the president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to appoint one or two experts of ancient relics to the negotiating team to ensure that the nation’s cultural and historical heritage is preserved,” said Rasul Bawari, deputy head of the Ministry of Information and Culture.