SAVE THE CULTURAL HERITAGE OF AFGHANISTAN
Appeal by ICOMOS and ICOM
For Immediate Release - March 1, 2001
ICOMOS (International Council on Monuments and Sites) and ICOM (International Council of Museums) learned with great shock of the new decree issued by the Taliban leadership of Mullah Mohammad Omar ordering the systematic destruction of all statues in the country. This decision breaks the commitment made by the Taliban leadership in 1999 to protect all cultural heritage in Afghanistan and in particular the giant Buddha figures at Bamiyan. Adding to the dishonour of breaking a commitment to preserve the ancient and diverse heritage of Afghanistan as part of that of the whole of mankind, such an act of destruction would be a total cultural catastrophe. It would remain written in the pages of history next to the most infamous acts of barbarity.
For many years, ICOM has alerted the world on illicit trade in cultural objects from Afghanistan. ICOMOS, in its 2000 World Report on monuments and sites in danger (see www.international.icomos.org), pointed out in detail the dangers to cultural heritage in Afghanistan, in particular the pre-islamic figures of the Buddha in Bamiyan. This decree of Mollah Mohammad Omar confirms the imminence of this danger.
As world-wide non-governmental organisations, ICOMOS and ICOM call on all people, governments, International Organisations and associations to take immediate action to prevent this cultural catastrophe from happening. A dialogue should be established with the Taliban leaders to ensure adequate protection of all Afghan heritage, whether pre-islamic or islamic. This is a matter of the highest importance and the greatest emergency.