Statement by the Director UNESCO Kabul Office concerning the destruction of ancient artefacts in Ghazni, Afghanistan

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© UNESCO

The Director and Representative, UNESCO Office in Afghanistan, Mr. Paolo Fontani has expressed his deepest concern over the recent destruction of buildings of the Afghanistan Department of Culture and Information in Ghazni and the Museum of Pre-Islamic Art in Ghazni, which houses precious ancient Islamic artefacts and rare books including manuscripts.

According to the Afghan Ministry of Culture, 35 artefacts and approximately 7000 books, housed in the department building were destroyed in the 4th September attack. Over a hundred cultural artefacts were salvaged as well as 5000 books, many of which will now have to be restored.

“Our first thoughts go to the victims of this ruthless act”, said Mr. Fontani “and to their families”, adding that “the irreversible loss of these unique artefacts should be equally condemned, since such artefacts underpin the cultural identity of the local communities and provide the foundation over which the fabric of society should be rebuilt”.

Together with the Italian Institute for Africa and the Orient (ISIAO), UNESCO assisted the Afghan authorities in the rehabilitation of the Museum of Pre-Islamic Art in Ghazni, with financial support from the Italian Government. The project was completed in 2011, as part of the initiatives for the designation by ISESCO of Ghazni as Centre for Islamic Civilization of 2013.

Although there was considerable damage to the museum building itself the artefacts stored in the museum remained intact. Fortunately, the majority of the artefacts to be housed in the newly refurbished Museum of Ghazni were kept in the National Museum of Kabul, owing to the ongoing security concerns in Ghazni.

The other museum in the restored Mausoleum of Abdul Razaq in Ghazni province, the Museum of Islamic Art in Rauza, established by UNESCO in cooperation with the Italian government, remains intact.

Mr. Fontani added that “in the face of this latest attack UNESCO will continue to stand next to the Afghan authorities and people to help them safeguard their cultural heritage. I make an appeal to the international community to contribute to this effort.”