Buddhist Artifacts Still in Danger

June 8, 2004

Source: The Christian Science Monitor


On June 8, 2004 The Christian Science Monitor reported, "Seven strangers pulled into [Mis Ainak, Afghanistan] a few weeks ago with a keen interest in a nearby Buddhist temple. They asked the local villagers why they wanted to work for pennies when they could make hundreds of dollars stealing Buddhas instead. The villagers' response? On May 16, they called the cops and had the outsiders arrested. But by then it was too late. Heads and torsos, hands and feet were removed, leaving behind only the delicately formed draped clothing of a once-exquisite, now-defaced, Gandhara-style clay Buddha. And this is where the mystery begins. The arrested men were carrying official permission letters from the Ministry of Culture. And through pressure from the Culture Minister himself, the men were released, never to be seen again. Culture Ministry officials say it's all a misunderstanding. Local police say it's a case of corruption at the highest levels. And foreign diplomats say it's an indication that today's Afghan government may be no better at protecting Afghanistan's historic treasures than was the radical Islamist Taliban regime."