The Embassy of Afghanistan Celebrates Cultural and Archaeological Heritage

WASHINGTON – The Embassy of Afghanistan honored achievements in the preservation and protection of Afghanistan's archaeological and cultural heritage Monday evening. The reception, hosted by Ambassador Said T. Jawad, was cosponsored by the National Geographic Society and the Association for the Protection of Afghanistan Archaeology (APAA). The event paid tribute to a number of individuals whose brave actions saved many priceless masterpieces of Afghanistan's heritage during the reign of the Taliban, including Mr. Omara Khan Masoodi, Director of the National Museum in Kabul.
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Ambassador Jawad began the evening by recounting the history of Afghan archaeology, and the tragic attempts by the Taliban to erase much of Afghanistan's cultural heritage. "What took our archaeologists 70 years to discover took extremists less than a decade to sell off, burn and demolish. The hollow cavities where the Giant Buddhas once stood in Bamiyan are a testament to the suffering of our country under the Taliban," he said. "The hollow cavities where the Giant Buddhas once stood in Bamiyan are a testament to the suffering of our country under the Taliban. Their absence speaks to the other voids that exist today in Afghanistan, the ruins of buildings and schools, the young men who were cut down too early in life, the children who were not permitted a childhood, the landmine victims missing arms and legs." The Ambassador demanded vigilance against cultural terrorism and warned that many looted antiquities continue to be smuggled out of Afghanistan.

Omar Sultan, Afghanistan's Deputy Minister of Culture, spoke briefly about Afghanistan's fostering of "a culture of toleration" and the necessity of protecting Afghan oral heritage and folklore. "Today we need the revival of the arts. Our new generation has raised its heads from the flames."

Sarah Laskin, National Geographic's Vice President of Mission Programs, discussed National Geographic's assistance in the rediscovery of Afghan archaeology, including their role in the restoration of the National Museum.

Nadia Tarzi, Vice President of the APAA and daughter of the celebrated archaeologist Prof. Zemaryali Tarzi, informed guests that her father's excavation was getting larger and will become "a monumental Buddhist site." She eloquently urged guests to support Afghanistan's cultural preservation. "All is not lost; today Afghanistan is picking up the pieces of twenty-three years of war. Join us in filling in the gaps, healing the wounds and opening a new window of opportunity."

The evening concluded with a brief announcement by David Linsay, the Director of Government Affairs for the Society for American Archaeology. Mr. Linsay spoke about House Bill HR 915 and the steps being taken by Congress to prevent stolen antiquities from entering the United States.


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