When the taliban They controlled Afghanistan a decade ago and were fanatical about the elimination of everything they considered anti-Islamic.
His main target, literally and figuratively, were the two monumental statues of Buddha sculpted into the sandstone cliffs of central Afghanistan. One was about 180 feet tall and the other about 120m tall and had been in the dusty Bamiyan Valley since the 6th century, long before Islam reached the region.
Despite international opposition, the Taliban destroyed them with massive explosions in 2001. At the time they were blown up they were the largest statues of Bda in the world and it seemed like they were gone forever.
But today, the United Nations teams for education, science and culture, together with the International Council on Monuments and Places, are engaged in the painstaking process of rebuilding the two Buddha statues.
«More than half of the statues can be recovered«, As it says Bert Praxenthaler, a German art historian and sculptor who has been working at the site for the past eight years. He and his team have worked with 400 tons of rubble and have recovered many of its parts, along with the landmines, shrapnel and explosives they explained for its demolition.
But how to rebuild the Buddhas from the rubble?
The archaeological term "anastylosis"It seems like a kind of strange disease to most people, Praxenthaler said.
For those who know the world of archeology, anastylosis is actually a familiar term. A process that was followed to restore the Parthenon in Athens. It is about the combination of original pieces of the monument with modern material.
A few days ago, Praxenthaler was leading a group through a tunnel behind the niche where the smaller of the two statues once stood. "Now we are at the top ”, he explained..».
Mixed feelings in the project.
Bamiyan It is a very poor and remote land in one of the most underdeveloped countries in the world. Buddha statues were once a major tourist attraction, but Afghanistan has been at virtually uninterrupted war for more than three decades. The fighting drove tourists away before the Taliban blew up the statues.
The restoration project is designed to rebuild the historic site, as well as to bring back tourists. He has the support of Habiba Sarabi, the popular governor of the province, and there are reasons to be optimistic, as Bamiyan is one of the least dangerous provinces in Afghanistan.
However, others such as human rights activist Hamadi Abdullah say that the empty niches where the priests were housed are a reminder of the Taliban's fanaticism and therefore should stay that way, as a reminder.
“The buddha was destroyedHamadi said. "If it is rebuilt it will not be history, history is the broken statue of Buddha”.
Hamadi hails from the nearby Yakawlang district, where the Germans massacred more than 300 members of a minority group, called the Hazaras, in 2001, the killings taking place just two months before the Taliban blew up the Buddha statues.
Although Bamiyan is much safer today, Taliban insurgents recently kidnapped and beheaded Jawad Zahak, head of the Bamiyan Provincial Council as he was driving with his family to Kabul about 150 km to the southeast.
Some people from Bamiyan say they prefer to see the restoration money invested in more important things like electricity and housing, which is in a precarious situation.
Homeless shelter in the caves.
In fact, the caves are the only home that some Bamiyan people have. Homeless villagers like Marzia and her six children live in one of the caves with their goats. Marzia, who like many Afghans uses only one name, believes that statues are useless.
“We don't have a home, so where else can you live?" Said.
A few enterprising villagers have found ways to make money from the historical remains that surround the Buddhas. One of them is Husain, known in the city as the man who was forced to help the Taliban destroy the statues.
He says he had no choice but to obey the Taliban a decade ago or they would have killed him. One of his friends resisted and refused to participate and was executed.
Meanwhile, Brent Praxenthaler's team was about to end a temp job during a scorching summer in Afghanistan. Restoring the Buddhas of Bamiyan will take many more years. After the summer break, the Praxenthaler team plans to resume work in the fall.