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Thursday, March 10, 2011

UNESCO plans museum complex for Bamiyan Buddha site

Updated March 11, 2011 13:30:41

World culture body UNESCO has unveiled plans to preserve the site of the giant Buddhas of Bamiyan, an Afghan archaeological treasure destroyed by the Taliban 10 years ago. The UN's cultural body says international experts and Afghan officials stopped short of recommending the two Buddha statues be fully rebuilt in replica.


Presenter:Sonja Heydeman

Speakers: Professor Abdullah Saeed, Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne. Member for the UNESCO Commission in Australia;Shahib Sharifi, Afghan journalist; Associate Professor Nigel Lendon, Australian National University's College of the Arts and Social Sciences


HEYDEMAN: UNESCO has plans to preserve the ancient Buddhas of Bamiyan site. It says the westernmost of the two cliff-side niches that housed the Buddhas should be left empty, "as a testimony of the violence that occurred" under the Taliban.
UNESCO says for the other niche, a feasibility study may be undertaken to determine whether or not a partial re-assembling of fragments of the eastern Buddha could be an option in the coming years. The UN's cultural body says there's also a need to construct a central museum in Bamiyan, and smaller site museums within the landscape.
Professor Abdullah Saeed is Director of the National Centre of Excellence for Islamic Studies at the University of Melbourne. He's also a member for the UNESCO Commission in Australia. Professor Saeed says anything that can be done to remedy the violence the Taliban created should be seen as a welcome development.
SAEED: It is a global cultural issue, Buddhism is an important religion, and Buddhism has always been there in that region for a very long time. And when one looks at these kinds of issues today, one should not look at them as a short term issue, it is a long term cultural issue. And as a global community, whether we are Buddhists or Muslims or anybody else, we should all be concerned about maintenance and preservation of these cultural artifacts and sites.
HEYDEMAN: But not everyone is so upbeat about possible plans. Within Afghanistan � journalist Shahib Sharifi says the news has registered no interest whatsoever.
SHARIFI: The announcement comes at a time the country is grieving for maybe one of the bloodiest weeks, in the east and in the north, and most of the attention of the people is towards that, and it has not on a local level, it has not even drawn any attention.
HEYDEMAN: Shahib Sharifi says part of the problem with any development plans is lack of access by road from Kabul to Bamiyan. And he says the province remains under serious threat.
SHARIFI: Anything about tourism inside that security bubble would still at the moment would be meaningless for people, when the future looks bleak, when still the province threatened, when at any time the situation destabilises, the Taliban could return and take revenge.
HEYDEMAN: Associate Professor Nigel Lendon is with the Australian National University's College of the Arts and Social Sciences.
Associate Professor Lendon says any museum style development would be an enormous undertaking and one unlikely to be shared widely. He says it would make a poor investment.
LENDON: Museums are keeping places for a country's treasures certainly, but they're also primarily places for people to visit, and there's no one visiting. So I can't really see the purpose of that sort of a project. I'd much rather see a hospital built on the site rather than a museum, frankly.
HEYDEMAN: Associate Professor Lendon says bringing tourists to the region could also draw the unwanted attention of terrorists.
LENDON: In a sense having so many foreigners might in fact create a kind of target for other people.
HEYDEMAN: Shahib Sharifi says instead of development plans such as museums � the focus should be on protection of what's left at the site.
SHARIFI: To train the local structure, increase the number of these local structures, give the local institutions more support just to look after what has remained, until Afghanistan is safe enough to create further tourist attractions. What is there needs to be protected properly, and unfortunately, it's not.
HEYDEMAN: UNESCO added the Bamiyan valley to its list of endangered heritage sites in 2003.
Since then, UNESCO says it's spent years preserving the remains and removing mines from the site.

Source,

http://www.radioaustralia.net.au/connectasia/stories/201103/s3161599.htm

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