Afghanistan 2001

By | December 16, 2021

Destruction of the Buddhas

“Only God Almighty is worthy of being worshiped, nobody else and nothing else.” Thus read an edict, a fatwa, of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, the official name of the Taliban state, issued on February 26, 2001 and signed by Mullah Mohammad Omar al Mujahed, his supreme guide, also called Amir-ul-Mumenin or ‘Commander of the faithful’. This fatwa provided the basis for the destruction of Bamiyan’s two colossal Buddhas: the Dipankara Buddha, the ‘Buddha of the past age’, and the historical Buddha Shakyamuni, which were the largest depictions of humans in the world. At the beginning of March (the exact date has not been communicated) these works of exceptional value were turned into dust and stones by the explosion of several tons of dynamite, accompanied by the cry Allah akbar (“Allah is great!”) Of the guerrillas. Taliban, as they showed the world, on March 19, the images of the private television channel of Qatar ‘al-Jazira’, the only one who had been allowed to watch the event.

Parallel to the destruction of the famous Bamiyan Buddhas, the Taliban religious police (Amr bil ma’ruf wa Nahi anil-Munkar, or Ministry for the Promotion of Virtue and Prevention of Vice) would proceed to the destruction of pre-Islamic and non-Islamic artifacts throughout the country, from the reclining Buddha of Ghazni to the precious Buddhist, Hindu and Greco-Bactrian statues preserved in the museums of Kabul, Herat and Jalabad. No independent observer, however, has been able to confirm the authenticity of this news. The rumor spread throughout the country, also in Pakistan, that the real purpose of the edict was to cover a large-scale operation, concerning the sale of these works of art on the underground Pakistani antiques market, which counts numerous buyers in Western Europe, America.¬†For Afghanistan 2008, please check

The wave of protests sparked around the world by the publication of the edict – which was also joined by the UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, the former Afghan king Muhammad Zahir (currently living in Rome), General Pervez Musharraf, political leader of Pakistan, numerous governments, religious organizations and artists from all over the world and even eminent Muslim scholars, such as the sheikh of the famous Cairo University al-Azhar – did not prevent the Taliban from carrying out their iconoclastic purpose. The vast majority of Afghans were also horrified by this destructive action, although they could not publicly express their outrage for fear of reprisals. Some eminent Afghan artists in exile provided voice for it. For many of the remaining Afghans in the country,

The rise to power of the Taliban

The Taliban entered the scene of the Afghan crisis in the autumn of 1994 as a new and hitherto completely unknown force abroad. The completion of the withdrawal of Soviet forces in February 1989, the fall three years later in 1992 of President Mohammed Najibullah, who had been backed by the Soviet Union, and the seizure of power by the mujahideen did not coincide. with the end of the war in Afghanistan. After the victory, the different factions of the mujahideen not only have they shown themselves unable to govern Afghanistan together and to begin a process of rebuilding the country, but have plunged into a series of bloody internal struggles for the conquest of the monopoly of power, accompanied by uncontrollable and brutal intimidation against the population civilian, which soon ended up losing all faith in the ‘liberators’ from the Soviet occupier. The mujahideen have not even managed to govern the capital in a unified manner: recalling that period, the Afghans speak of “seven governments in Kabul alone”.

The fragmentation of political power and the loss of confidence on the part of the population have favored, since 1995, the rise of a force that had declared its intention to end the chaos, disarming all the other factions and restoring a true Islamic order. ‘: the Taliban. Initially, they stated that they did not want to retain power but that they intended to hand it over to a legitimate government once the disarmament of all the warring factions was concluded, and also hinted at a possible return of former King Muhammad Zahir. Faced with the chaos caused by the divisions of the mujahideen, a large part of the population seemed willing to suffer the heavy restrictions imposed by the Taliban after their gradual affirmation. Measures such as banning all forms of entertainment and sporting activities and even some blatant violations of human rights and internationally shared norms such as women’s rights, including the right to education and work, were considered a lesser evil than to the damage caused by the misrule of the mujahideen.

Between 1995 and 1998, with the capture of Kabul, the Taliban then steadily assumed dominion of most of the Afghan territory, with the exception of a small portion in the north-east of the country (including the provinces of Tokhar, Badakhshan and Kapisa, and also the Panjsher valley), which remained under the control of their opponents of the Islamic United Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (UIFSA).

Political leader of UIFSA is Burhanuddin Rabbani, president of the Islamic State of Afghanistan and head of the Jamiat-e Islami party, while the military leader is, after the death of the historic commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, who was the victim of an attack on 9 September 2001, the general Muhammad Fahim. Since 2000, UIFSA has undergone a process of internal restructuring aimed at expanding its support base, while in 2001 some old and powerful opponents of the Taliban, defeated and forced into exile by the latter, returned to the military scene: the General Abdurrashid Dostum, belonging to the Uzbek ethnic group, in the north of the country; Ismail Khan in Herat, in the Northwest; Hajii Abdul Qadeer, a Pashtun, in the eastern area.

Afghanistan 2001