The Hazaras, a Shiite minority in Afghanistan, fear for their future under the Taliban. Mass killings of Hazara civilians took place under the previous Taliban regime in the 1990s. Also in 2001, in Bamyan, the majority Hazara province considered to be their cultural capital, two world-famous Buddha statues were destroyed.
A video circulated on social media in November showing Taliban fighters using the area of the Buddha statue, a rocky hill lined with ancient caves with murals, as a shooting range. An image that not only hurts the Hazara, but also terrifies.
“In 2001, we heard the Taliban say that the Buddhas were against Islam,” archaeologist Mortaza Ahmadi told cameraman Amir Jan, who filmed in Bamyan on behalf of NOS in late November. “This video shows that the Taliban are still hostile to the images.”
Attack on cultural diversity
According to Ahmadi, there are many legends surrounding the statues. Locally, it is believed to represent two lovers, Shahmameh and Salsal. “Anyone who has seen the faces of these Buddha statues knows that they have the features of the indigenous inhabitants of this region, and therefore are part of the history and identity of the people of Bamyan.”
The destruction of the images was seen as an attack on the Hazara minority and the cultural diversity of Afghanistan. Around the same time, according to human rights groups, large-scale killings of civilians took place in a remote area of the province.
Images of the explosion of the Buddhas have been around the world:
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