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Afghan Buddhas may be rebuilt

The Taliban destroyed the Buddas in March
The Taliban destroyed the Buddas in March  

GENEVA, Switzerland -- The two ancient Buddha statues in Afghanistan destroyed earlier this year by the Taliban may be rebuilt.

The 1,800-year-old, 53-metre high Buddhas, hewn into a cliff face in the Bamiyan valley in central Afghanistan, were destroyed in March on the grounds that the "idolatrous" sculptures offended Muslims.

The destruction was condemned by the international community as an act of violence.

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) called the act "a crime against culture" and a "cultural tragedy for the world."

Now a campaign has been launched in Switzerland to raise more than 1 million to recreate them.

The campaign has been launched by Paul Bucherer, who runs the Swiss-based Afghanistan Institute and Museum, in Bubendorf near Zurich, and Bernard Weber, head of the New 7 Wonders foundation -- an Internet-based project that invites nominations for the seven wonders of the contemporary world.

On its Web site (, the foundation says its goal is "to reconstruct the Buddha statue using the latest technology."

It says the project has three steps: To make a 3-D representation of the statues with computers, using existing surveyor records; to construct a study model on a scale of 1:10 using the readings of the 3-D representation at the Afghanistan Museum; and finally, to organise an international fund in order to rebuild the Buddhas at their original location -- once the political and military situation in Afghanistan has been resolved.

It says the initial stages of the project will be carried out in co-operation with the Afghanistan Museum and with the support of experts from German, Austrian and Swiss universities.

The project has been offered the use of highly accurate measurements of the Buddhas made in the 1970s by Robert Koska, a Swiss cartographer from Graz University, Austria.

The 1,800 -- pictured before their destruction -- may be rebuilt
The 1,800 -- pictured before their destruction -- may be rebuilt  

It will also use descriptions of the Buddhas written in the 12th and 13th centuries by Chinese pilgrims and Arab geographers.

The Bubendorf museum contains hundreds of rare religious and cultural relics from Afghanistan.

The works were collected throughout the 1990s as the Taliban begin systematically destroying the country's historical treasures.

"This is the Afghans' temporary home away from home," Bucherer has said. "But everything here will be returned as soon as it is safe to do so."

The Buddhas were built between AD200 and AD400 by the descendants of Greek artists who came to Afghanistan with Alexander the Great.

Weber told the London-based Sunday Telegraph newspaper: "We want to prove that even wilful destruction cannot bring oblivion to that which mankind holds dear. They are among the first representations ever of the Buddha and their destruction was the destruction of the link between Western and Asian culture."

He added: "Obviously we will have to wait until circumstances in Afghanistan have changed before we can rebuild them there, but we will be ready to go ahead within two years, if circumstances allow."


• The Buddhas of Bamiyan
• New7Wonders
• UNESCO World Heritage

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