Cartoon NO.31 "All we are breaking are stones": Afghan militia leader
Muslim leaders condemn Taliban destruction
What have the fundamentalists done with our heritage?
"Medival" Taliban lashed over Buddhist demolition
'Buddha statues destroyed completely'
Annan: Taliban doing disservice to Islam
Bamiyan relics up for sale in Peshawar

Bamyan Buddha Statues, 55m
The tallest Buddha figure in the world,
55m;180 ft; created in the 3rd century A.D.
(2nd photo) (destroyed one)
Afghan Taliban leader orders destruction of ancient statues

AFP, Feb.26, 2001

KABUL, Feb 26 (AFP) - Taliban militia supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar on Monday issued a decree ordering the destruction of all statues in Afghanistan including ancient pre-Islamic figures.

"Based on the verdict of the clergymen and the decision of the supreme court of the Islamic Emirate (Taliban) all the statues around Afghanistan must be destroyed," said the decree.

The decree was issued as a team of western diplomats is visiting the Afghan capital to check reports that senior Taliban officials destroyed over a dozen pre-Islamic artefacts in the national museum.

Media reports have said zealous officials among the ruling Islamic militia recently destroyed several ancient relics in Kabul Museum, including an exquisite and priceless Buddha statue dating back some 2,000 years.

Taliban officials have categorically denied the reports but have refused journalists' requests to visit the museum.

The team includes the ambassadors to neighbouring Pakistan from Greece and Italy, the French charge d'affaires for Afghanistan, plus members of the Islamabad-based Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan's Cultural Heritage.

The delegation called on Taliban Information and Culture Minister Qudratullah Jamal on Monday morning, a team member said.

But the source said the envoys were denied immediate access to the museum.

"We talked with the minister. He called these reports baseless propaganda and said he would ask the higher authorities for permission (to visit the museum)," the team member said.

Taliban supreme leader Mulla Mohammad Omar has issued several decrees to protect non-Islamic artefacts, which have in the past been targeted by the militia's zealous commanders.

However there is concern that some hardline officials still see the relics as idols which are forbidden under Islamic law.

Kabul museum has been closed to the public since 1992 after most of its unique collection was looted during factional fighting between Afghan warlords.

The Taliban, or movement of religious students, seized Kabul in 1996 and have imposed a very strict version of Sharia law.

"All we are breaking are stones": Afghan militia leader

AFP, Feb.27, 2001

KABUL, Feb 27 (AFP) - The leader of the Taliban Islamic militia in Afghanistan Tuesday shrugged off international condemnation of his order to destroy ancient Buddhist statues, saying "all we are breaking are stones."

Mulla Mohammad Omar told the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) that he had issued his order to destroy all statues in Afghanistan, including those from the country's rich pre-Islamic history, in line with "Islamic" beliefs.

"According to Islam, I don't worry about anything. My job is the implementation of Islamic order," he said from the fundamentalist militia's stronghold in southern Kandahar.

"The breaking of statues is an Islamic order and I have given this decision in the light of a fatwa of the ulema (clerics) and the supreme court of Afghanistan. Islamic law is the only law acceptable to me."

The order, announced late Monday on the official Taliban radio, was met with shock from Tokyo to Paris, where UNESCO demanded the Taliban "halt the destruction of (Afghanistan's) cultural heritage."

The Taliban's Radio Shariat said the ministry of information and culture and the religious police would carry out the destruction.

"Only Allah, the Almighty, deserves to be worshipped, not anyone or anything else," Mulla Omar's decree said.

Afghanistan, a Buddhist centre before Islamic conquerers invaded around 1,400 years ago, is famous for its two massive and ancient Buddha statues in the central province of Bamiyan, dating back to the second century.

They are believed to be among the tallest standing Buddhas in the world.

Museums around the country host smaller but equally important Buddhist figures and other priceless statues.

In Tokyo, Hokkaido University's professor emeritus of Buddhism Kotatsu Fujita said: "I cannot believe the Taliban will destroy the big Buddhas."

"Even though the statues are in Afghanistan, they are really world heritage sites now. I strongly doubt the Taliban's understandings of cultural heritage."

All Japan Buddhist Association secretary general Kijo Nishimura said the destruction "must be avoided as much as possible under any circumstances."

"Once you destroy something, you can never get it back. We have an important responsibility to leave these statues to our descendants ... ," he said.

Omar said Afghan history was secondary to the history of Islam.

"Whoever thinks this is harmful to the history of Afganistan then I tell them they must first see the history if Islam," Omar told the Pakistan-based AIP.

"Some people believe in these statues and pray to them ... If people say these are not our beliefs but only part of the history of Afghanistan, then all we are breaking are stones."

In deeply Buddhist Thailand, Foreign Ministry spokesman Pradap Pibulsonggram said the loss of the Bamiyan Buddhas would be a "loss to humanity."

"It is their loss. I hope they could rethink their decision. It's a loss to humanity," Pradap said.

"It's the loss of Afghanistan to destroy these (Buddhas). One day when they resolve their problems, they'll want to attract tourism. This would help them."

The decree was issued as a team of western diplomats visited the Afghan capital, Kabul, to check reports that Taliban hardliners had vandalised ancient statues in the national museum.

The Pakistan-based envoys from Greece, Italy and France left Tuesday morning, saying only they were "very sad."

The Taliban, or movement of religious students, seized Kabul in 1996 and have imposed a puritanical mix of Pashtun tribal and Sharia law in a bid to create their idea of a true Mohammadean state.

Their regime is recognised only by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, and is not represented at the United Nations nor the Organisation of the Islamic Conference.

Muslim leaders condemn Taliban destruction

The Times of India, March 2, 2001

NEW DELHI: Leading Islamic clerics and leaders on Friday condemned the destruction of Afghanistan's ancient Buddha statues in central Bamiyan province by the ruling Taliban regime as "un-Islamic" and "an act of cultural genocide against humanity."

"It is an outrageous act. It should be treated as a crime against humanity. Bamiyan is part of the world's cultural heritage. The destruction of Buddha statues is an act of cultural genocide against humanity," Babri Masjid movement leader and former diplomat Syed Shahabuddin said.

Declining to draw a parallel between the Taliban action and the destruction of the disputed structure at Ayodhya on December 6, 1992, Shahabuddin said, "here it was some groups whereas in Afghanistan, the government itself is committing the crime."

"In the entire history of Islam, ancient and pre-historic sites have only been preserved and not destroyed whether it be in Iran, Egypt, Syria or India," Shahabuddin said.

The Shahi Imam of the historic Fatehpuri mosque here Maulana Mufti Mohammad Mukarram Ahmed termed the destruction of the statues as "un-Islamic."

"Islam has always respected other faiths. It has taught us not to abuse other faiths. The Taliban could have either veiled it or asked the Buddhist countries to relocate it if they were so averse to the statues," he said.

Christian leader Rev Valson Thampu said the Taliban action symbolised "selective use of religious prescription". (PTI)

"Medival" Taliban lashed over Buddhist demolition

AFP, March 2, 2001

ISLAMABAD, March 2 (AFP) - Afghanistan's Taliban militia were internationally lashed Friday as "medieval" vandals of the world's cultural treasures as they rained rockets and shells on two ancient stone Buddhas.

Already an international pariah recognised by only three countries, the Islamic militia were condemned by governments and religious leaders around the world for their move to destroy so-called "false idols."

They were also flooded with desperate ideas to save the ancient relics, which include the largest standing Buddha statue in the world built between the second and fifth centuries AD.

A senior Islamic leader, Egyptian mufti Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel, expressed astonishment and called for the Taliban to "act soberly and weigh the opinions of experts without fanaticism or urgency."

UNESCO rushed a special envoy to Kabul to persuade the Taliban to stop the destruction. "Words fail me to describe adequately my feelings of consternation and powerlessness as I see the reports of the irreversible damage that is being done to Afghanistan's exceptional cultural heritage," the director-general of UNESCO Koichiro Matsuura said.

Deeply Buddhist Thailand proposed an international fund to buy the precious relics and New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art volunteered to shift them to a "secular environment."

The European Union condemned the Taliban's move as "deeply tragic." "The EU strongly urges the Taliban leadership not to implement this deeply tragic decision, which will deprive the people of Afghanistan of its rich cultural heritage," the statement said.

Indian Foreign Minister Jaswant Singh, speaking before parliament adoped a joint resolution condemning the destruction, said the Taliban regime's campaign marked a "regression into medieval barbarism."

"The Taliban appear bent upon committing a grave wrong, indeed a sacrilege to humanity, to the civilisational and cultural inheritance of all mankind," Singh said.

"Even at this late stage, we would like to convey that the destruction of these precious manifestations of the cultural heritage of humankind should stop."

Singh said New Delhi, which does not recognise the Taliban regime, would be happy to arrange for the transfer of all the artifacts in question to India, "where they would be kept safely and preserved for all mankind."

Even neighbouring Pakistan, the Taliban's closest ally, called the Afghan ambassador here to register a strong protest.

"These monuments are part of the world's heritage and we have again requested the Taliban government to show tolerance in the true spirit of Islam," foreign office spokesman Riaz Mohammad Khan said.

The Met in New York on Thursday offered to preserve the relics at the museum's cost. "We deplore the destruction of major examples of the world's cultural heritage," museum director Philippe de Montebello said.

"My offer to the Taliban is to please stop and since they find these images objectionable, rather than destroying them, we the Metropolitan, would be prepared to come with experts at our own cost and in collaboration with them take pieces that are obviously portable and preserve them in the Met," he said.

But the storm of protest has failed to stop the Taliban from destroying the two Buddhas in central Bamiyan province, which stand 50 meters (165 feet) and 34.5 meters (114 feet) tall, and other historic statues.

Appeals to spare the Afghan relics were made by the United States, France, Germany, Thailand, Japan, Sri Lanka, Iran, Nepal, Vietnam, Pakistan, Germany, Russia, India, Malaysia, the European Union, UN Secretary General Kofi Annan and many museums and Buddhist organisations.

Bamyan Buddha Statues were destroyed completely by ignorant Taliban

Bamyan Buddha Statues were destroyed completely by ignorant Taliban

'Buddha statues destroyed completely'

The News, March 13, 2001

ISLAMABAD: The destruction of the two massive Buddha statues in Bamiyan was completed on Thursday and Friday with dynamite, an official source in Islamabad confirmed on Monday.

"The plan of demolition by dynamite, established in advance, was implemented on the 8th and 9th (of March)," said the source, who asked not to be named. "There is nothing except a few pieces of the Buddhas, left clinging to the cliff," he said.

"This crime against culture was committed while all the world's voices were raised to prevent it. The Taliban paid no attention to the unprecedented international protests, nor of the conflicting views expressed by the highest religious authorities of Islam," Matsuura said.

The delegation, including Egypt's top religious leader, Mufti Sheikh Nasr Farid Wassel and two top scholars, Sheikh Yusef al-Qaradawi and Mohammad al-Rawi, returned empty-handed from Afghanistan on Monday.

PARIS, March 12 (AFP) - UNESCO's special envoy to Afghanistan has confirmed that the ancient Buddha statues at Bamiyan have been destroyed by the ruling Taliban militia, the agency's director general said Monday.

"I was distressed to learn from my special envoy, Perre Lafrance, that the destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas has been confirmed," Koichiro Matsuura said in a statement released at UNESCO's Paris headquarters.

Annan: Taliban doing disservice to Islam

UPI, March 12, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 12 (UPI) -- U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, in Pakistan on a tour of the region, expressed outrage Sunday over the demolition of 1,500 year-old Buddha statues by Afghanistan's Taliban rulers.

Annan called the destruction of two ancient Buddhist statues in central Afghanistan as "a disservice to both Afghanistan and Islam."

The Taliban rulers, he said, were also harming themselves by indulging in such activities, the British Broadcasting Corp. reported.

Reports from Afghanistan said the demolition of the ancient monuments near Bamiyan - one thought to be the tallest of its kind in the world - was overseen by the Taliban's defense minister.

The larger, 53-meter (175-feet) statue was reduced to rubble on Thursday, and the 38-meter (120-feet) statue was destroyed the following day.

"I think no one will accept" the Taliban's argument that Islam allowed them to destroy the Buddhist statues, Annan told reporters after the meeting, adding that the demolition would also harm fundraising appeals for aid for the Afghan people. Countries with a large Buddhist population -- such as Japan, Sri Lanka and Thailand -- were more passionate in their appeals to save the relics.

Islamic Iran offered to buy the relics "for safe custody" with a promise to return them whenever the Afghans wanted. The Taliban's closest ally, Pakistan, sent a high-level delegation to convince the Taliban to change their mind.

A delegation also came from the world's largest Muslim body, the Organization of the Islamic Conference on Saturday to help protect the statues but failed to prevent the destruction.

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