The city of Bamiyan is the only urban settlement in the entire Bamiyan Province. It became the center of the then newly created Bamiyan Province in 1964. The city grew rapidly, but at the same time suffered from the lack of a zoning plan. Bamiyan’s bazaar at that time had around 300 to 400 shops and its market were very busy twice a week.
published : 10 Sep 2021 at 10:45
ISLAMABAD: Bamiyan’s cultural centre should have been completed last month, showcasing the remarkable heritage of a site that Afghanistan’s Taliban desecrated two decades ago by dynamiting ancient statues of Buddha.
But the red carpet celebrations will have to wait. After the Taliban swept triumphantly into the capital Kabul, everything was put on hold.
“Everything is suspended,” said Philippe Delanghe, from UNESCO, the UN’s cultural agency, who said they are awaiting the decisions of the new regime.
Afghanistan once stood on the legendary Silk Road trade route, a crossroads of ancient civilisations.
Now in the hands of the hardline Islamist Taliban, there are fears its heritage is at risk.
In March 2001, the Taliban spent weeks using dynamite and artillery to blow up two giant 1,500-year old statues of Buddha, carved into a cliff at Bamiyan, some 175 kilometres (78 miles) west of Kabul.
Many consider the wanton destruction to be among the world’s worst cultural crimes.
It was an act that brought the Islamist’s radical ideology to global attention, just a few months before Al-Qaeda — who the Taliban hosted in Afghanistan — carried out the devastating 9/11 attacks on America.
“We judge by history, and 20 years ago there were terrible results,” Ernesto Ottone, UNESCO’s assistant director general for culture, told AFP.
– Crossroad of civilisations –
In February, the Taliban said that Afghanistan’s relics were part of the country’s “history, identity and rich culture” and that “all have an obligation to robustly protect, monitor and preserve these artefacts”.
There are worrying signs. In mid-August, residents in Bamiyan accused the Taliban of blowing up a statue honouring a Hazara leader — an ethnic group persecuted by the Islamists — who they had killed in the 1990s.
AFP could not confirm the reports, but social media images appeared to show a decapitated statue.
Bamyan (/ˌbæmiˈɑːn, ˌbɑː-/; Pashto/Dari: بامیان) also spelled Bamiyan or Bamian is the capital of Bamyan Province in central Afghanistan. With an altitude of about 2,550 m and a population of about 100,000 (in 2014), Bamyan is the largest town in the central Afghanistan region of Hazarajat, and lies approximately 240 kilometres north-west of Kabul, the national capital. It also refers to the surrounding valley. Many statues of Buddha are carved into the sides of cliffs facing Bamyan city. In 2008, Bamyan was found to be the home of the world’s oldest oil paintings. The city of Bamyan has four districts and a total land area of 3,539 hectares. The total number of dwellings in this city are 4,435.
The valley is the Center of the Hazara settlement area, now known as Hazarajat. At the end of the 10th century AD, there was a Buddhist culture in which several thousand Buddhist monks lived in caves carved into the mountain. The 53 and 35 meters high standing Buddha statues are two of the best known monuments left from the Buddhists, which were then destroyed by the Taliban in 2001. Furthermore, there are several cultural sites left from both the Buddhist and from the later Islamic era of the valley. After the overthrown of Taliban from power in 2002, considerable efforts have been made to preserve the cultural monuments in the valley.
The Bamiyan valley marked the most westerly point of Buddhist expansion and was a crucial hub of trade for much of the second millennium CE. It was a place where East met West and its archaeology reveals a blend of Greek, Turkic, Persian, Chinese and Indian influence. The valley is one of Afghanistan’s most touristic places.