UNESCO Director General and Chief Executive Dr Abdullah Abdullah celebrate the role of Cultural heritage for the future of Afghanistan

“Keeping History Alive” a UNESCO publication on safeguarding cultural heritage in post-conflict Afghanistan was launched in Kabul’s Babur Garden H.E. Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, and UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova.

“Safeguarding heritage and diversity is more than a cultural issue. It is an issue of citizenship, bringing people together around shared values. To build peace tomorrow, we need to safeguard today Afghanistan’s heritage today” said the Director-General, highlighting the role of culture as a driver for social cohesion and self confidence.

H.E. Chief Executive of Afghanistan Dr. Abdullah Abdullah highlighted the wealth of the cultural heritage in Afghanistan, and its role in building a sense of common purpose, especially in turbulent times : “Some have tried to turn our diversity into a liability – but it is clearly an asset and we should be proud of it. Wherever you go in Afghanistan, in Bamiyan or in Herat, in Balkh or in Kandahar, you see how rich this country really is, at the crossroads of civilizations, home to creative traditions like carpet making, wood carving, music... It gives hope and confidence to be a part of this heritage.”

The publication looks back at the efforts of UNESCO and other individual and institutional actors to safeguard Afghanistan’s rich cultural heritage since 2002 and also a view to the future and the important work that lies ahead. It highlights the diversity of this heritage and the need for continued engagement to protect and preserve the country’s valuable cultural treasures.

The ceremony was held in the Babur Gardens, one of the world’s most famous Islamic gardens which have been restored after historic efforts held since 2002 by HH the Aga Khan. The garden subscribes layers of meaning rooted in religious symbolism which set them apart from their European counterparts, despite the fact that conceptual, social and political aspects maybe shared. 

The venue also hosts the photo exhibition, “The Afghanistan we are proud of,” open to the public and organized under UNESCO’s global movement, Unite4Heritage, which aims to celebrate and safeguard unique tangible and intangible cultural heritage around the world.

The publication was made possible by the generous financial support from the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation, a strong partner of UNESCO, also involved in major restoration and rehabilitation projects, notably in the Bamiyan valley.

Among the prestigious contributors to the publication, Pr Nancy Dupree, Director of the Afghanistan Center at Kabul University, made a vibrant plea for raising awareness and disseminating materials to educate and sensitize young people about the wealth and importance of heritage. “In the past, books were poorly printed, without illustrations and it is no wonder that students were not interested in their own history. This book can be a turning point, if it helps people not only to understand history, but also help them realize this is something they should be proud of. The work is not finished, now we need a translation of this book into Dari and Pashto, to make it accessible to all in Afghanistan” she concluded.