World Heritage Committee halts reconstruction of ancient Bamiyan Buddhas
The World Heritage Committee (WHC) has halted the reconstruction of the magnificent Bamiyan Buddhas , which were obliterated by the Taliban in Afghanistan in 2001 despite wide-spread campaigns to support the revival of the largest representation of a standing Buddha in the world.
The Bamiayn Buddhas were two large standing Buddha statues, measuring 53 and 38 metres in height, and carved into solid rock. The enormous monuments were a reflection of Afghanistan, not only as a crossroads for the cultures of its powerful neighbours – China, India, and Persia – but also contributing greatly in its own right.
However, in a few weeks of fury in March 2001, the Taliban militia demolished the 1,700-year-old statues, as well as every artefact and artwork which they considered sacrilegious, as part of their campaign to rid Afghanistan of pre-Islamic structures.
Destruction of the Buddhas of Bamiyan by the Taliban in 2001. Photo source: Wikipedia
Since then, there have been numerous calls to rebuild the great monuments. The government’s director of historical monuments said he was in favour of rebuilding the statues if the World Heritage Committee approved. However, in March 2011, UNESCO announced that they were not in favour of a rebuild, citing concerns over funding priorities and authenticity. Instead, approval was given for conservation work to be undertaken in the Bamiyan Valley where the Buddhas once stood, including reinforcing the cliff into which the Buddha statues were carved.
However, all conservation work by the German wing of the International Council on Monuments and Sites (ICOMOS) has been halted by the World Heritage Committee after it was suspected that they were secretly trying to rebuild one of the statue’s feet, the United Nations said. The WHC warned that any attempt to rebuild the statues without official permission could lead to the site losing its World Heritage status.
Featured Image: Taller Buddha in 1963 and in 2008 after destruction. Photo source: Wikipedia