On the morning of March 9, 2001, we were all sitting near the table waiting for Father to join us for breakfast. My father came out of the bathroom and turned on the radio. He used to listen to the radio even when we didn’t have electricity. He would use the batteries to listen to the news. After a minute, we heard a BBC report that in Bamiyan, the Taliban had dynamited and destroyed the two ancient Buddhas which were carved into the side of a cliff in the 6th Century. Some world organizations and scholars had tried to save the Buddhas, but all their efforts were useless. Some countries even offered to pay the Taliban for them, but still the Taliban committed this crime. Not only did they destroy the idols, but they sold the stones to Pakistan.
When my father heard, he shook his head. Tears filled his eyes and landed on the pillow which we put on the mattress for his back. For a while, none of us spoke. We were all shocked. My small sister finally broke the silence, asking my mom, “Can we start drinking tea? I am hungry.” My father told my mom to start our breakfast. During Taliban regime, all people who previously had jobs with the government had been dismissed and were sitting at home. My father, who was an army officer, and my mom, who was a teacher, were both at home. The economic situation was very bad for educated families.
In the morning, usually Afghans eat cheese, milk, jam, butter and so on, but during Taliban regime many people could afford only bread with tea for breakfast, and many others couldn’t afford even that. We started eating bread and tea, but nothing tasted good because of the news about the Buddhas. My father finally spoke, asking my sister kindly, “Are you too hungry?” Then we knew Father was okay and we asked lots of questions.
I asked: is it possible to rebuild the Buddhas in the future? How much money will it cost if Afghanistan rebuilds the Buddhas? Why couldn’t other countries have prevented this destruction? And so on.
My father told me: “My dear daughter, of course is it possible to rebuild, but even then, rebuilt Buddhas won’t have the same value. Besides, our country is in a very bad economic situation. When a country can’t pay salaries, how can it afford to rebuild its ruined ancient sites? There are lots of ancient sites which are going to be destroyed… In the next regime, if foreign countries or United Nations and other NGOs decide to cooperate with us and rebuild, it will be possible.”
In response to my question about why others countries couldn’t prevent the destruction of the Buddhas, Father told me: “The countries which train Taliban, like Pakistan, of course would never prevent this. And the Taliban would not discuss the matter with those countries which oppose them. Some countries want to argue with the Taliban for forbidding women to go to school and jobs, but the Taliban won’t accept that. In fact, they are against our country’s education, civilization and culture, and want to destroy everything.”
I told my sister those who got to see the Buddhas were lucky, and that I wished we would have seen them too. My young sister said loudly, “Me, too.” We all regretted that we lost this chance.
We were invited to our aunt’s house for lunch. We prepared ourselves and got on the bus. People, especially educated people, were discussing what had happened, saying, “We were unhappy that the Taliban took our children’s education, which effects the young generation, but even worse, now they have destroyed our valuable historic traces.” Everyone shook their heads and said, “We don’t know what they will do next.”
Another man who was going to the Ministry of Education said, “First I complained that our government was not paying attention to its nation, but now I know that making requests and having hopes from such a government is useless. In fact, they are brutal, worse than animals. An animal is better than this government because if you train it and caress it, it will learn, but I don’t know what kind of heart and mind they have in this government.” Then he told the driver to stop the bus, and as he got off, he said, “We have lost everything.”
In fact, it was a big loss not only for Afghanistan which is located in the heart of Asia and it is very ancient country, but for the world too. I hope in the future, our government and the international community will pay attention to our historical sites. We have lots of such beautiful sites in most of our provinces, like in Gaznai, Herat, Logar, and all of them are going to be lost because no one is taking care of them. Our people, most of them illiterate, don’t have how much value they have. Ancient historical sites show world history, and through them, you get lots of new messages and discover secrets. I hope especially the international community will rebuild our ruined Buddhas, which were crying because they were the biggest Buddha in the world but first lost their eyes and then their bodies. You know the Buddhas have souls just waiting to take shape. Even without finding its previous value, if the Buddhas are repaired, they will be left as a memory for the next generation. We are looking for a kind hospital and a smart doctor to repair our broken-hearted Buddhas.