Chinese NGO steps in to help protect Afghan heritage

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On March 9, Peaceland Foundation launched the Action to Protect Afghanistan’s World Cultural Heritage. The organization intends to carry out regular inspections of the archaeological remains located in the Bamiyan Valley and at Jam Minaret, which are both listed as sites with World Heritage in Danger by UNESCO.

The Jam Minaret, famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration, is thought to have been built during the 12th century AD, and was reported to be in imminent danger of collapse back in 2014.

The Bamiyan caves, located in the Bamiyan Valley northwest of Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, composed of more than 6,000 large and small Buddhist grottoes, were built between the 3rd and 5th centuries AD.

On May 11, 2021, the Chinese State Administration of Cultural Heritage and the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture signed the Joint Statement on Coordinating the Asian Cultural Heritage Protection Action, aimed at facilitating cooperation on archaeological research, as well as the rescue and restoration of cultural relics and monuments.

However, following the withdrawal of U.S. troops in August 2021, the situation in the country became unstable. Although large-scale destruction of cultural heritage sites has not yet happened, individual incidents have occurred frequently, including theft and random shooting at grottoes.

Adding to the problems is the loss of people with the appropriate skills required to protect cultural heritage sites. Some have found work as porters, some have taken to weaving carpets, and some have even had to hide in the mountains for safety.

To assist, the Peaceland Foundation will provide a consignment of humanitarian aid, including food and other essentials, to local communities and cultural institutions in order to support people through this difficult time.