Afghanistan’s Great Bamiyan Buddha’s were blown to pieces in 2001 by the Taliban and ever since there has been speculation about whether they should be rebuilt. UNESCO, which oversees this World Heritage Site, recently asked restorers to build a platform to protect visitors from any rocks that fall from the niche where the Buddhas once stood. The brick pillars under the platform have been seen by some visitors as resembling the Buddha’s feet. This has led to renewed calls to restore the Buddha. As reported in the Wall Street Journal, Afghanistan’s cultural affairs director at UNESCO, asked UNESCO’s World Heritage Committee to consider rebuilding the two ruined Buddhas. No complete analysis has been made of what would be needed to undertake such a restoration. And, it would be a formidable task if it were to transpire since there are many missing pieces.
A leading Bamiyan mullah witnessed the destruction and now fully backs the reconstruction. He said the Buddhas are an important part of their cultural patrimony and, contrary to what the Taliban thought, are not images that are worshipped by the local people.
A principal concern is that the Taliban are on the move again and continue to gain ground now that most of the U.S. troops have withdrawn. Azam Ahmed has an in depth story in the New York Times detailing the movement of the Taliban. Unless the Afghan army can stop the Taliban, it is doubtful that UNESCO would undertake what is already a difficult and risky project.