I was thirteen years old when the Buddhas of Bamiyan were destroyed by the Taliban. At that time I didn’t know much about world politics all I knew was that I felt extremely angry and sad at the same time. This because I couldn’t understand how nothing could be done to stop this.
Now, eleven years later, there’s a new case in Afghanistan which may lead to the destruction of yet another historical/archeological treasure.
In 2007 the Chinese Metallurgical Group Corporation (MGC) paid three billion dollars to get a lease for a copper rich area in Logar (Afghanistan). The Afghan Mining Ministry estimates that this mine holds around six million tons of copper. Except being a copper rich area, this area also is the place where you can find a 2,600-year-old Buddhist site. This place is called Mes Aynak and consists of a walled in Buddhist city with temples, 150 statues of Buddha and monasteries.
To be able to fully use the massive copper mine, the MGC is planning to destroy this historical site by the end of December 2012. In 2009 MGC gave archeologists three years to excavate the site but they need at least thirty years to do the job correctly. Unfortunately, Afghanistan is a country which is starting to stand on its feet (barely) and focusses more on the economical value. The Afghan government has different priorities. Other aspects like the historical/archeological value are not seen as important at the moment. The Chinese MGC also has a say in everything due to the fact that they paid for the area.
This site hasn’t gotten any attention these past few years, I think simply because it’s not threatened by a foreign company but by looters. Kharwar has been somewhat overshadowed by the attention that has been given to Mes Aynak. However, here also you can find great examples of the Buddhist heritage of Afghanistan. Therefore I think this also needs to gain more international attention. Illegal excavation and illegal transport of these cultural objects form a great threat for this area. The Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture has already called upon security officials in Afghanistan to take actions against the thieves but the truth is that Afghanistan doesn’t have the capacity to deal with/protect sites like Kharwar.
This situation is different from the one eleven years ago for several reasons. Afghanistan is not under Taliban rule anymore and international pressure can help more than back then. I’m not thirteen anymore and I can try what I can to give it more attention and maybe you guys can also spread the word. At least we can make the people around us aware of what’s going on.
You can write an e-mail to UNESCO and ask them to put Mes Aynak & Kharwar on their List of World Heritage in Danger. More information can be found at unesco.org.
You can also help by funding the production of a documentary film about the imminent destruction of the ancient Buddhist city. This documentary is produced by Brent Huffman, read more about it at kickstarter.com.
Let’s not just stand and watch while another historical site is being destroyed in a country which already has lost so much.
*Picture taken from kickstarter.com