Destruction on World Heritage

Before and After

The Taliban

The Bamiyan Buddha’s are two large statues which were created as a reminder of the Buddhist past of the valley. These statues were created between the third and fourth centuries and are located in Afghanistan by the Bamiyan Valley. (Harrison, 2009) Afghanistan is a very conservative country, however after the war with the Soviet the Taliban took over most of Afghanistan. (Grun, 2004) The Taliban when they took over began shaping everything into Islamic traditions, and whatever didn’t fit was to be removed, or stopped. UNESCO, which is the United Nations of Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization, wants to protect heritage and support cultural diversity that have outstanding universal value. April 17 1997 Mullah Mohammed Omar declared that he would destroy the statues icons and religious imagery were forbidden by Islamic Law. (Harrison, 2009) However when the United Nations and UNESCO found out about it, they urged Mohammed Omar not to destroy them, and at that time, the Taliban agreed! At this point the Taliban had most control of the area, and had been shaping it into Islamic Religion; this religion included women to wear burqa and men had to grow beards, girls over ten years old were removed from school.  (Harrison, 2009) The Taliban’s first attempt to show dominance of the “valley’s new political leaders” was by defacing the statues, this was seen as the first attack to the Bamiyan Buddha’s. (Harrison, 2009)

March 2001 again Mohammed Omar stated that he would destroy the statues because they represented religious and spiritual traditions that differed from Islam. (Grun, 2004) UNESCO asked partnering countries to support them in convincing the Taliban to stop the destruction. However, the Taliban continued to destroy the Buddha’s. To make matters worse, they decided to record the destruction of the Buddha’s and send it to the media so all countries were aware.  The Terrible Fate of the Bamiyan Buddha’s.

Hungry children in Afghan

Islamic beliefs are strong

March 2001 again Mohammed Omar stated that he would destroy the statues because they represented religious and spiritual traditions that differed from Islam. (Grun, 2004) UNESCO asked partnering countries to support them in convincing the Taliban to stop the destruction. However, the Taliban continued to destroy the Buddha’s. To make matters worse, they decided to record the destruction of the Buddha’s and send it to the media so all countries were aware.  The destruction of the Buddha’s influenced the US-led coalition to invade and overthrow the Taliban in October of 2001. The act of destroying the statues came to be viewed as an explicit defiance of international conventions and the rest of the world. (Harrison, 2009) Why would culturally significant statues be destroyed? There were many different statements as to “why” the statues were destroyed. The first was because, ‘they were viewed as an explicit defiance of international conventions and the rest of the world,’ another was because of religious reasons. The Taliban wanted to shape everything into an Islamic view, and the Bamiyan Buddha’s did not follow that belief. The final and big statement was that UNESCO was willing to pay money to preserve the statues, for heritage; the Taliban were upset and asked why they couldn’t give them money for the children that were dying from mal-nutrition, these children were their heritage. UNESCO said they could only give money for sites, and the Taliban were outraged, and believed that because of these statues the children were dying, which is why they destroyed them. (Harrison, 2009)

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8 Responses to Destruction on World Heritage

  1. brodrigues2 says:

    I also agree with your comment on how you destroying the Buddha statues was an example of destruction of heritage but also an example of defiance by the Taliban’s to the rest of the world. they wanted to change the heritage of the place and make it into their own by changing and manipulating everything into their Islamic view.

  2. nlenriquez says:

    I really enjoyed reading this. I liked how you incorporated reasons why the Taliban wanted to destroy the Buddha statues and why UNESCO wanted to preserve them. I gained a better understanding of the why they were destroyed and of the ethical issues behind destroying World Heritage

  3. mbrooks8 says:

    I liked how you gave different reasons defining the “why” the statues were destroyed; most would assume only the religious aspects. You give a bit of insight into the Taliban’s “point of view”. Your references add to this post as well, and make this post quite informative overall.

  4. dchouu says:

    This post was able to help me to relate to the discussion we had in class regarding “how to protect cultural heritage sites from destruction”. I believe that this is important in the case that we do our best to preserve these statues in order for people to be able to look back into their past and see what their ancestors had left them. Your post had very specific pictures that related to the text that helped me better imagine the context of the post.

  5. Such religious fundamentalists’ cultural pillaging also took place in Mali earlier this year when libraries and sacred tombs were desecrated twice. Destruction has always been a part of our history’s grand narrative – fall of Constantinople, sack of Troy, sack of Ayutthaya, among others. Acts of destruction can never be justified at all, but history will have its own way of rectifying them later on as they enter mainstream discourses.

    Nevertheless, I think that the narratives of destruction does not only refer to massive, organized and intent-led acts. I have always been keen on how little everyday acts of destruction impact sites’ integrity and authenticity. In here, I’m looking at, for example, tourists’ vandalizing Lion’s Paw in Sri Lanka, the commercialization of Prague, or even the minor modifications made by private owners to the heritage houses in Paramaribo and other WH-listed towns. It may also be interesting to tackle the role of the “Heritage in Danger List”, as well as the “Endangered Monuments List” by the World Monument Fund.

    Keep on feeding this blog. I really find it great!

  6. After reading your article it portrayed the Taliban of being a dominant group in Afghanistan. These extremists group were damaging sites that were representations of our past. I could not believe that the Taliban wanted everyone to follow the Islamic religion and in order for that to happen they destroyed sites to prove their point.

  7. sbolanos3 says:

    I was very interested to hear another perspective discussing the matter of heritage destruction. Heritage sites are such a crucial part of our culture and for younger generations to understand the past. Our heritage has to be protected at all costs.

  8. danalba2 says:

    The destruction of World Heritage Sites is never the answer to any conflict, but you can see from the Taliban’s point of view on why they initiated the act, they were simply looking for aid.

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