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No Sign of Statues as Taliban Reopens Kabul Museum

March 23, 2001|From Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Taliban soldiers unlocked the bullet-scarred doors of the Kabul Museum on Thursday, opening the war-ravaged building for the first time since Afghanistan's hard-line rulers ordered all pre-Islamic statues destroyed.

Remnants of the destroyed statues were nowhere to be seen in the museum. Pieces of a stone carving were visible through a rusted grill in a basement room, but they were not identified as a statue.

"We are here to show you what we have. There are no more statues left," said Ahmed Yar, president of the Kabul Museum, who refused to say where the destroyed statues were.

"We are not against anyone's culture; we are against what is against Islam," he said.

Only three doors were opened, all to reveal collections of ancient pots, one showing shelves holding thousands of pieces of cracked clay.

It was the first glimpse of what remains of Afghanistan's historical artifacts since the Taliban regime declared all statues idolatrous and ordered them destroyed last month.

The destruction of two giant statues of Buddha, carved into a mountainside in the 3rd and 5th centuries, sparked international outrage. An estimated 6,000 fragments of Buddhist art were housed in the Kabul Museum.

The collection spanned Afghanistan's history and included relics from the country's prehistoric, classical, Buddhist, Hindu and Islamic periods.

Journalists have not been permitted to go to Bamian province to see what is left of the huge Buddhas. The larger statue, at 175 feet tall, was believed to have been the world's tallest standing Buddha. The smaller one stood 120 feet tall. Taliban officials and international aid workers say they were demolished by explosive charges.

Thousands of smaller statues in the Kabul Museum and elsewhere were destroyed with pickaxes, hammers and artillery.

Shattered by relentless war and a devastating drought, many residents of Kabul, the capital, view the destruction of the Buddha statues as the final blow to their waning hopes for a better day.

"Now everything is finished. We are really lost," a Kabul resident said on condition of anonymity.

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