Issued Monday 26 March 2001

The World Archaeological Congress (WAC) is deeply concerned by the recent destruction of the ancient Buddhist statues located in the Bamiyan Valley about 145 kilometres west of the Afghan capital, Kabul. Their great antiquity, and the probability that they were the largest rock cut statues in the World, gave them enormous value both for humankind in general and, in particular, for Buddhist peoples world wide.

WAC strongly condemns such destructions of cultural property. The Congress is currently campaigning to halt large-scale dams which threaten to displace local populations and destroy their heritage in the name of ‘development’. WAC has condemned the destruction of the mosque at Ayodhya, in northern India, by Hindu fundamentalists and has also addressed the destruction of mosques and churches during the recent war in former Yugoslavia.

WAC respects the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion and the right to freedom of expression as fundamental human rights. However, the edict of 26th February 2001 overturns Mullah Mohammed Omar’s earlier undertakings and runs counter to these rights and indeed, to the principles on which Islam has historically been based. Such an edict can only serve to justify a state of affairs in which cultural and social differences are devalued and refused free existence. WAC is particularly concerned that the edict and more recent statements of the Taliban about a ‘wrong heritage’ act as historical manipulation of the most material and expedient kind. It is consistent with the Taliban’s lack of respect for historical differences of belief and practice within Islam and only serves to underpin further a present-day society in which women’s work and women’s lives are devalued by the denial of basic human rights and the inflicting of physical and psychological violence upon them.

WAC calls for the immediate reversal of the edict of 26th February 2001 ordering the destruction of all non-Islamic statues in Afghanistan. WAC notes the recent requests of the Taliban for international recognition and an end to isolation and therefore, urges all parties in Afghanistan to enter into dialogue with all of those in the international community who have joined hands to protect Afghanistan’s unique and invaluable cultural heritage. For further information please contact:

World Archaeological Congress
International Centre for Cultural and Heritage Studies
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Newcastle upon Tyne
United Kingdom
Fax +44 191 222 5564 Email