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Community’s Aspiration to Restore The Bamiyan Statues

Shukria Neda’s speech at UNESCO International Symposium - Tokyo
Shukria Neda
Monday 9 October 2017

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First of all, I would like to express my sincere gratitude to government of Japan and UNESCO Office for conduction of this important event.
I have come from Afghanistan, the country where has preserved the Buddha Statues, the greatest cultural glory of mankind and the proudest historical witness for 1600 years.

I have come from Afghanistan, the country where has expectantly hugged the wounded and torn identity of the world for 16 years.
Today, Bamiyan has come to Japan. Bamiyan, the city where is tired of pain of explosion of the history. Bamiyan, the city where is tired of seeing the empty niches of the Statues.

Today, the Bamianes, have come to Japan to ask the world: Are Buddha Statues the common share of all of us? Are the empty niches of these statues are painful for you too? Are you ready to share this pain with Bamiyan?
If yes, please, stand up for the respect of re-standing the eastern Buddha Statue in Bamiyan.

Dear Friends,

We are here in one of the most important historical sessions of UNESCO office, the session which is aimed to make a decision about the restoration of one of the greatest cultural glory of mankind. However, this session and the decision followed are of special value for the people of Afghanistan from a variety of point of views.

First: Restoration of the Statue, cultural masterpiece of history:
One of the reasons for the importance of restoration of one of the Buddhas Statues is that this action can be considered as an important step in relation to the advent of a vast cultural and culture- building programs.

We believe that if we want to find a sustainable resolution to restrain war and violence, the approach regarding the current war should be changed and the strategic vision should be transferred from military to a cultural- historical vision. It is obvious that violence in Afghanistan are rooted in various internal and external factors, however, lack of cultural programs and dialogues are a huge gap in this country and the restoration of Shahmama Statue can be considered as a great step in filling this gap.

Second: Restoration of the Statue and protection of human rights:
The cultural right is one of the examples of human rights which has been emphasized seriously in international documents of human rights. According to Article 27 of Universal Declaration of Human Rights: “Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural rights of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits. Everyone has the right to the protection of the moral and material interests resulting from any scientific, literary, or artistic production of which he is the author”. Accordingly, based on Article 15 of “International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, the use of these rights has been emphasized and has obliged the States to provide the required facilities to practice these rights. One of the essential commitment stipulated for the States is to take measures for “maintenance and development” of cultural monuments.

Maintenance and restoration of historical monuments help the progress of tourism industry and improvement of economic situation which in turn assist people to achieve economic rights including the right to have an appropriate job, dignified life, enjoying social insurances and other human rights.

Third: Restoration of the Statue and Protection of Peace in Afghanistan:
The attempt to achieve peace and life in a society is not always possible through discussion, assistance, and military investment. Sustainable piece is achievable via elimination of violence-raising and dispute-provoking culture. The violence-provoking culture can be gradually and sustainably replaced by peace-seeking and reconciliatory culture through cultural means of beliefs, opinions, behavior, and functions of people in a society.

Afghanistan is a multi-ethnic society where different social groups live with different cultures, interests and diverse historical antecedents who have been away from each other due to war and conflict and have no mutual concept and understanding from each other. However, these diverse people can be gathered under a huge cultural umbrella including historical monuments which are of their common values and away from political tension and instability. The Buddhas of Bamiyan have the potential to establish peaceful and reconciliatory interaction among different social groups in Afghanistan.

The respected audiences,
The creation of the Statues is the narrator of a spectacular and glorious period in mankind history. However, the demolition of these Statues is another history itself. The history of cruelty and savagery which makes its demolition date a symbol of cruelty and barbarization in the calendar of humankind.
At present time, these two Statues are the coincidence of the two histories: The first history: Creation event, the second history: demolition event. Maintaining the two events is important for the history and the next generations.
I have two suggestions regarding Maintaining of the two events.
My first suggestion to the Government of Afghanistan and the UNESCO office is to restore and repair the eastern statue as “the symbol of peace among religions”. Because in today’s world, where people interact peacefully without taking into account the geography, ethnic, language, and race; the main problems which creates the deepest distances between people are conflict and pessimism between religions.

For example, the conflicts between the Muslims and the Buddhists in Myanmar, disagreement on construction of mosques for Muslims in the United States, killing of the other religions’ followers by Muslims are among the examples which reveal a deep and huge distances in human societies.
We believe that every religion conveys redemptive message and stipulates the provision of justice and improvement of benefaction in society. Therefore, instead of concentrating on outward differences, people should focus and pay attention to the common soul of all religions such as believe in God, love, affection, peace seeking, justice, and other ethical instructions.

It should not be disregarded that restoration of The Buddhas Statues in Bamiyan, Afghanistan, can be a linking bridge between the two split cultures of Islam and Buddhism and a positive message for the religious war in Myanmar. Muslims and Buddhists have a common destiny and even in a country like Afghanistan, they have a common history and past. They now can have common interaction too.
Without any doubt, by the restoration of the eastern Statue as the “symbol of peace among religions”, these commonalities will be strengthened not only between the Islam and Buddhism, but also among the entire religions.

We wish that “women” can be pioneers in the campaign for the restoration of one of these Statues as the “symbol of peace among the religions” all over world; because women are the most vulnerable people in any conflict while they can change it into the strongest peace makers.

My second suggestion to the Chair of the Board of this session, UNESCO office and the Government of Afghanistan is that the western Statue of be kept just as demolished as it is and be named as the “symbol of cruelty and barbarization”.
What happened during the Taliban period is hard and irreparable. The demolition of these Statues in the advent of the twenty-first century means demolition of the culture and history of mankind. Therefore, ignoring this tragedy is equivalent to its confirmation by the today’s civilized people.
So let one of these Statues remain unrepaired so that the history and the next generation know what has happened to the civilization and culture of mankind in a geographical area called Afghanistan in twenty-first century. Let the history know that the Taliban showed no mercy to the stones. Let history judge what happened to humans in Afghanistan especially in Bamiyan in this era.
The end



Shukria Neda is a Hazara activist, currently working as UNAMA Human rights officer.

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