February 26, 2001, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the leader of the Taliban, issued an edict which called for the destruction of all non-Islamic art and shrines throughout Afghanistan. Within days of this edict, the Taliban looted and smashed artifacts in the National Museum of Afghanistan, and the world saw the destruction of the sixth century Bayiman Buddhas, the oldest known images of the Buddha.
|Bayima Buddhas. Taken from http://afghanistanonmymind.blogspot.com/2011/06/buddhas-of-bamiyan.html|
The Buddha (and the artifacts in the museum) represented Afghanistan's rich and diverse history, yet destroyed in just a few moments by Taliban explosions. Throughout the years, the Taliban destroyed numerous artifacts they deemed as idols (similar to the Nazi's destroying art deem degenerate).
|Bayiman Buddhas Destroyed. Taken from http://afghanistanonmymind.blogspot.com/2011/06/buddhas-of-bamiyan.html|
Although the U.S. invaded Afghanistan in order to topple the Taliban after the attacks on September 11, 2001, the Taliban still has a hold in some areas, and since 2001, most of the country's art stayed in other countries and museums around the world to ensure protection from the Taliban.
|Taken from © 2003 Newsweek, Inc.|
This week the New York Times wrote an article entitled "Saving Relics, Afghans Defy the Taliban", which describes how the rebuilding of the National Museum of Afghanistan sends a message of resilience and defiance (Norland 2014). Of the 2500 artifacts smashed by the Taliban in their raid, the museum reassembled around 300. UNESCO has called for the return of 857 objects, and since 2001, authorities returned over 11,000 artifacts found at the border. The museum's head of archives described artifacts as a part of the country's national identity (Norland 2014).
|National Museum of Afghanistan destroyed by the Taliban in 2001|
2014. Saving Relics, Afghans Defy the Taliban. New York Times, January 13: A1.