The largest Buddha statues in the world known as Bamyan Buddhas once stood on the cliffs of Bamyan Valley before they were destroyed by Taliban on March 11 2001. This day is observed as Black Day by the Hazaras, who once followed Buddhism before the rise of Islam in this region. Despite international appeals, Taliban Shura led by one-eyed Mullah Omer ordered destruction of the Buddhas on 26 February 2001. When the news spread to the world, Kufi Anan, the then General Secretary of United Nations sent his special envoy in Kabul and Kandahar to persuade Taliban not to destroy the centuries old treasure. Head of UNESCO asked the Organization of Islamic Countries to pressurize Taliban. OIC members including Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and United Arab Emirates—states that officially recognized the rule of Taliban—demanded for protection of Bamyan Buddhas, but all in vain. Director of the Metropolitan Museum New York asked Taliban leadership to sell the giant historic Buddhas to western museums. Large protest rallies were organized by the adherents of Buddhism in several cities of the world. But the forces of evil—Taliban—didn’t hear. On March 09 after offering Friday Prayers, they started planting bombs inside Buddha statues. Some local Hazaras were arrested, tied with bombs in their back and lowered from the top roof of the statues to plant explosive material in the holes of statues. Later all of them were killed or slaughtered. While talking to HTimes, a survivor who had taken part in plantation of explosive materials said, “those who rejected to plant bombs in the Buddhas, were shot dead at the spot. At the beginning some persons rejected, when saw their fate, we trembled and reluctantly went up to dynamite….”. He (anonymity on request) further said destroying completely after a week of explosions, Taliban slaughtered 50 cows in celebration.
Taliban deemed the giant Buddhas as non-Islamic, but the real story behind the decision was more political than religious. Taliban wanted revenge from the international community for the sanctions and not recognizing their (Taliban) Government, says Waheed Muzhda, who served in Foreign Ministry of Taliban.
Taliban were aimed at removing the history and identity of Hazara, believes majority Hazara residents of Bamyan saying the Buddhas stood there since centuries and represented the Buddhist history of Hazaras. Local people say other than Taliban, the tyrant dictator Abdul Rehman Khan—1892—also attempted to destroy the statues and damaged some parts of it.
Reconstruction of the Buddhas?
In 2002, after the ouster of Taliban, UNESCO talked about reconstruction of the destroyed statues. Many countries including Japan, China and Thailand offered to build it. Today, after eight years of Taliban ouster, there has been no progress in reconstruction of the ruined Buddhas. In 2002, the then Transitional Government in Kabul announced plans of reconstruction. UNESCO started working on clearing the cave-dwellers, but later the Ministry of Information and Culture opposed reconstruction plans saying it would lose the historic value and Taliban brutality will be removed. Officials say the huge fund needed for reconstruction could be used for poverty in the province. Since then the plans are pending. Two years ago, hundreds of people in Bamyan had signed a petition demanding the Government to rebuild the Buddhas. Governor Sarabi, too, supports the idea. She says, at least one of the statues be built. It will bring international tourists to improve the economy of the province. A couple of months ago the Ministry of Information and Culture in Kabul said, “Bamyan Buddhas will never be built again.”