Enemies of
the Afghan heritage

Afghan Taliban leader orders destruction of ancient statues
- "All we are breaking are stones": Afghan militia leader
- Muslim leaders condemn Taliban destruction
- "Medival" Taliban lashed over Buddhist demolition
- 'Buddha statues destroyed completely' (with photo)
- Annan: Taliban doing disservice to Islam
- Cartoon about statues
- Bamiyan relics up for sale in Peshawar

Lost treasures of Kabul
The pillage of Kabul Museum
Pakistan government buying stolen antiques
UNESCO calls on dealers to respect Afghan art heritage
Where is the selling market of the Kabul museum’s antiques?
Mr. Mousouris: "Looting of the museum is high treason"
Centuries-old Buddha statues under threat in Afghanistan (with Photo)
Fate of Bamiyan Buddha statues hangs in balance (with Photo)
Taliban dynamited Eagle statue in Baghlan
Buddhist Monument sold to US for $50m
Jehadis piled books to set them ablaze in Kabul University in 1993
Museum Under Siege

Related photos: ( 1 ) - ( 2 ) - ( 3 ) - ( 4 ) - ( 5 ) - ( 6 ) - ( 7 ) - ( 8 ) - ( 9 ) - ( 10 )

Afghanistan’s National Museum, established in the 1920s and acknowledged as one of the world’s most opulent depositories, had also become a victim of fighting among the fundamentalists. After the invasion of Kabul in 1992 the corrupt and uncivilized warriors plundered the whole museum and turned its building into ashes. Many historical relics were destroyed and the precious collections of the museum lay in ruins.

The pillage of Kabul Museum

Following is excerpts from a write-up on the pillage of Kabul Museum published in "Weekend Post" (October 21,1994). The only point we would like to add is that the treacherous jehadi fundamentalists had only plundered and sold Kabul museum, but now their brethren Taliban are playing with the dignity and pride of our people. The jehadi and the Taliban type of fundamentalists have put Afghans to shame in front of the world.

Shifted to the idyllic settings of Darul Aman in 1931, Afghanistan’s national museum is one of the richest cultural repositories in the world, housing the most elegant antiquities from Alexandria, Ashokan, Akhamansheed, Greek, Budd-hist, Kanishkan, Zoroastrian and Muslim periods. But, unfortunately, the marathon gory drama of death and destruction in Kabul has brought in its wake such a situation that helped an international Mafia comprising hogs from a number of countries -- notably Russia, Japan, India, Pakistan, UK, France and Germany-- a great deal in smuggling most of the excellent artifacts out of Afghanistan.

Rumors have it that the sword of legendary Ahmad Shah Abdali Baba, stolen from Kabul Museum, was sold for a song in Peshawar: Rs.300 only, a price that should put the entire Pakhtun nation to shame. As it changed hands, the sword was sold to a cagey European businessman for six million rupees.

Likewise, in the not-so-distant past, an ignoramus group of mujahideen, led by Ahmad Shah Masood, was accused of purloining most of the contents of the museum -- some of them 30,000 to 50,000 years old.

The mujahideen, who are no connoisseurs of arts, threw overboard the centuries-old golden principles of the ‘Ormazd’ and ‘Ahriman’ when, in 1988 invaluable vases belonging to the Zoroastrian period were pilfered from Kabul museum. A skint group of refugees sold them in Hayatabad at dirt-cheap prices. ....

The trigger-happy mujahideen, after having ruined their present, and imperiled their future, are now bent upon wreaking havoc with their past glories, an act that is tantamount to cultural suicide.

The future Afghan generation are bound to curse their forefathers for selling their rich civilization and, thus, distorting their otherwise splendid history. ....

But the present-day horror story of Kabul will make Yutozi turn in his grave. ....

The pistol of Amir Abdur Rehman and the sword of Wazir Akbar Khan, whose heroic role in the 1839 war against the British invaders, is remembered to date in Afghan folklores, are conspicuously missing from the museum. ....

Worth while among the holdings at Kabul Museum from the various periods Afghanistan witnessed were: Flake-blade industry (30,000 to 50,000 years old), a fragment of human skull with Neanderthal features (Stone age), 1800 rare artifacts from the Kushan period, a life-size statue of Kushan ruler Kanishka (128 A.D.), bronze, plaster, matrixes and glass collection (Alexandria), 17 gold and silver vessels (2500 B.C.), 21,000 gold ornaments (1st Century B.C.), paintings of Hindu and Buddhist econography, unique marble sculptures (6th Century A.D.), 5000 incomparable marble relives, bronzes, frescoes and ceramics of the Ghaznavids, ethnographic collection of 20 matchless wooden effigies from Nooristan (1895-96), Kanishkan coins with depiction of gods and goddesses, schist and limestone relief sculptures, 350 Buddhist clay-molded and stucco art pieces, Gupta art objects (7th Century) and coin collection, numbering almost 31,000 pieces (8th Century to modern times), besides large statues of war heroes, rulers and animals -- such as horses, cows, goats, elephants and lions.

It is an open secret that a 6th Century A.D. statue was sold to a farmer of Dir for Rs.700 by an Afghan refugee. The farmer struck a profitable bargain with a foreigner and pocketed a hefty sum of 7.5 million rupees from the sale of the statue. Similarly, a federal minister was recently accused of trading in statues by a religious leader belonging to Swabi (NWFP). It is relevant to note that artifacts of the said minister were seized at the Peshawar airport which were to be smuggled abroad through a third party.

Pakistan government buying stolen antiques

Islamabad, Aug. 6: In what was described by most experts as a surprise decision, the Cabinet approved last month a supplementary grant of Rs 30 million to procure antiques, metal and glassware, manuscripts and paintings available in the local market or in private hands. Following the Cabinet directive, the Finance Division agreed last week to provide the huge amount for procurement from local market of artifacts/ manuscripts/arts pieces of Afghanistan or Central Asian origin for display in National Museum in Islamabad.

The only thing which happened recently was unconfirmed reports that a large number of high value pieces of carved ivory stolen from the Afghan National Museum in Kabul have been brought to Peshawar and were offered for sale to a very few, highly connected persons. It is understood that some of the Afghan ivory pieces have already been sold to individuals and smuggled out of Pakistan but more than one hundred pieces are still reported to be available with a man in Peshawar who according to one expert was operating under an assumed name.

The Afghan treasure of carved ivory was discovered at village Begram, some 40 miles north-east of Kabul and dates back to 2nd century AD. They come from a period when the Kushan Empire covered a vast area from northern India up to the upper regions of Central Asia. Artifacts from this period, therefore, can be classified as of Central Asian Afghan origin.

The decision of the Cabinet came as a surprise for people who are knowledgeable about the international law on sale/purchase of archeological pieces belonging to the cultural heritage of another nation. They advise that care must be taken while selecting items for purchase from the supplementary grant for display at Pakistan National Museum because if even one item stolen from Kabul museum is procured by the Government of Pakistan, it would amount to a clear violation of the 1972 UN convention of Protection of National Heritage of the member states. Pakistan is a signatory to the Convention.

THE MUSLIM, August 7, 1995

UNESCO calls on dealers to respect Afghan art heritage

PARIS (AFP) - UNESCO director general Federico Mayor called Wednesday on art dealers and collectors to refrain from acquiring objects that formed part of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage but were looted from Kabul’s central museum last November.

The international art market has recently begun trading in articles from Afghanistan that have found their way to the west after a rocket attack on the museum enabled looters to make off with many valuable items.

Officials of the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization warned that "looters stripped the national museum in Kabul, the Jalalabad museum was destroyed and several art objects were sold in the west." The loss to the Asian country’s heritage was "massive", they said in a statement.

Mayor called on dealers and collectors to "respect scrupulously the interests of the Afghan people by refraining from acquiring objects that might have been stolen from them."

The Frontier Post, April 1,1994

Where is the selling market of the Kabul museum’s antiques?

CIA, Peshawar, in a big haul early on Thursday recovered antiques in three different raids at gold market, Koochi Bazar and Gulbahar. The relics were allegedly stolen from the Kabul museum some time back.

Two persons were arrested who according to police are the agents of a gang operating in Peshawar, US and other countries had smuggled antiques which has allegedly been stolen from Kabul museum some time back. The smugglers had also concealed heroin powder in the antiques.

During the raid, the officials recovered two mounds of ‘topaz’ worth lakhs of rupees, 34 statues worth millions of rupees in the international market, 16 swords of Mughal era, 23 other swords, five epitops and other antiques.

Experts in the local market while talking to The Frontier Post said that the seized antiques are worth millions of dollars in the international market. While in the local market price is estimated at millions of rupees. They said that for the past six months, there were reports that costly antiques stolen from Kabul museum were in the local market.

William reeve, BBC correspondent in Kabul in his recent interview at BBC television said that the relices stolen from the Kabul museum had been sold in Peshawar. He also surveyed gold market in Peshawar and found the agents who deal in the business.

The Frontier Post, August 17,1996

Mr. Mousouris:"Looting of the museum is high treason"

Nancy Hatch Dupree in one of her detailed lecture on "Preserving Afghan Heritage" which was delivered at the German Embassy Auditorium on April 25, 1995 said:

".... The breakdown of law and order which has plagued Kabul ever since the arrival of fractious mujahideen groups in April 1992 has spelled disaster for the museum.

.... In the case of the Kabul Museum, however, all indications suggest that the looting was carried out with careful consideration; it was probably not plundered wantonly by illiterate Mujahideen.

.... It is important that all Afghans should know of and appreciate the abundance of their heritage. Afghans should be proud of their past accomplishments, and consider this past a part of their own self-esteem. Sadly, too few are aware of their heritage. Worse there are those who would despoil it.

.... The only pieces reliably certified as genuine were ten Bagram ivories which were seen in Islamabad in April 1994. The asking price was 200,000 British pounds. I have recently been informed that these have now left Pakistan and the price has risen to 400,000 pounds.

.... This brings up the question of the morality of so grandly rewarding someone who has stolen the heritage of his own nation. As Mr. Mousouris has stated, ‘Looting of the museum is high treason because it is an act against the dignity, the cohesion, and the glory of the nation’."

Home Page | Photo Gallery | Latest News from Afghanistan