Ten-Year Anniversary of the Destruction of the Bamiyan Buddhas

March 2011 marks the ten-year anniversary of the destruction of the colossal Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley of Afghanistan. Hewn into the living rock in the sixth and seventh centuries, these remarkable examples of Gandharan sculpture had stood as silent guardians in this lush valley for over a thousand years, ever-present reminders of a Buddhist population that had long since vanished. Obliterated by dynamite over several days in March 2001 by the Taliban, their loss is still, ten years later, a powerful and tragic reminder of the fragility of the world's shared cultural heritage.

Shortly after the fall of the Taliban, international teams began visiting the Bamiyan Valley. A decade after the Buddhas' destruction, there are still conservation efforts underway at the site as well as ongoing discussions about the future of the empty niches. The possibility of restoring one or more of the statues remains a topic of debate, as this recent article shows. The future plans for this internationally significant site will not be decided quickly. When we put the site on our Watch list in 2008, we did so to encourage international involvement in long-term preservation efforts of what remains of ancient Bamiyan as well as to ensure that future work, whether conservation or restoration, maintains the site's authenticity and that best preservation practices are followed. This is the best way forward to a positive future for this site, long a symbol of multiculturalism but destroyed in one of the most atrocious acts of cultural intolerance in living memory.