Twenty years after the Taliban blew up two famous Buddha statues, Afghans commemorated the tragic loss of their historical and cultural heritage on March 9 at a ceremony in the central Bamiyan valley.
In a nighttime display, one of the Buddha statues came back to life as a three-dimensional projection in the alcove that hosted it for centuries.
The illumination capped a day of commemorations organized by the Night with the Buddha project, including a lantern-lit procession as hundreds gathered at the base of the sandstone cliff where the statues once stood alongside caves, monasteries, and shrines.
The projection filled the alcove that once housed Solsol, a 55-meter high statue.
Mohammad Tahir Zaheer, acting minister of information and culture, called the destruction of the ancient statues “a great cultural crime of the century” and urged the perpetrators be held to account.
Toward the end of the Taliban’s five-year reign in Afghanistan, the hard-line Islamic group declared the Buddha statues “false idols” and blew up the ancient figures in March 2001, drawing international condemnation.
The commemoration comes as concern mounts that the Taliban could return to power if U.S. troops are withdrawn from the war-torn country in the coming months as outlined in a deal between the militants and the United States.
Talks being held in Qatar between the Afghan government and the Taliban are stalled amid a surge of violence between the warring sides.