RELIGION

Squabbles Are Damaging Hopes Of Rebuilding Afghanistan's Beautiful Bamiyan Buddhas

(FILES) An undated file photo shows an Afghan military truck parked under the shadow of a huge Buddha statue in the central p
(FILES) An undated file photo shows an Afghan military truck parked under the shadow of a huge Buddha statue in the central province of Bamiyan in Afghanistan. Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia began destroying 01 March 2001 all statues in the country, including the world's tallest standing Buddha in central Bamiyan province. Afghanistan is home to an array of pre-Islamic historic treasures from its days as a key stop on the ancient Silk Road and a strategic battleground for conquerers dating back to Alexander the Great. (FILM) AFP PHOTO/Jean CLAUDE-CHAPON (Photo credit should read JEAN CLAUDE-CHAPON/AFP/Getty Images)

It is always a shock reaching Bamiyan, coming face to face with the two huge cavities in the cliff face. The upright tombs stare out over the valley, a splash of vegetation surrounded by wild mountains. The town straddles the Silk Road, close to the point where it used to enter Persia, dwarfed by two massive mountain ranges, the Koh-i-Baba and Hindu Kush. The void left by the two destroyed Buddha figures is appalling, it rouses and emotion almost more powerful than their once tranquil presence did for centuries.

To understand what happened you must go back to the beginning of 2001. The Taliban-led regime was on very poor terms with the international community and increasingly tempted by radical gestures. The decision to destroy the two monumental Buddha figures at Bamiyan was just part of the drive to destroy all the country's pre-Islamic "icons", an act of defiance to the outside world.

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