Taliban opens site of Buddha statues they destroyed to visit for $5

During their first rule, the Taliban shocked the world by destroying the Buddha statues in 2001, but the movement, which is trying to present a different image of it, opened the site of the statues as a tourist attraction for those wishing to visit it.

And a report from the American network “NBC News” transmits that the movement opened the site as a tourist attraction, and tourists are allowed to walk around the place and take pictures for $ 5.

The Taliban’s permission to open the site to tourists comes at a time when the financial crisis has worsened since Washington froze about $10 billion in assets belonging to the Afghan Central Bank, and deteriorated further after the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund stopped their funding to the country that depends on foreign aid.

Under the white Taliban flag, the militants are supervising the sale of entry tickets to tourists who want to visit the site of the statues that were previously demolished.

The visitors come even from supporters of the movement, according to what the network transmits, and refers to the case of Siddiqullah, an Afghan supporter of the movement, but he came to visit the historical site with his friends.

“I was young when the statues were destroyed, about seven years old,” Abdullah told the network. He is happy to see the ruins of the statues.

The Taliban suffers from the inability to pay the salaries of employees and lack of funds to run the affairs of the country.

The area was a sacred site for Buddhists on the ancient trade route between China and Europe known as the Silk Road.

When the Taliban announced its plan to destroy the statues in 2001, it came under intense international pressure to refrain from doing so. But the group, which it described as un-Islamic, destroyed the statues using tons of explosives.

After the latter’s takeover of the country, the Taliban is trying to present itself as a moderate movement despite its violent crackdown on opponents in some areas.

The Taliban is facing pressure from international organizations to preserve the Afghan cultural heritage and not to destroy it.

The country has historical archaeological sites across Afghanistan, and the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization, UNESCO, declared the Bamiyan Valley, where the statues were located, a World Heritage Site in 2003.

It worked with the US-backed Afghan government to preserve what remained of the Buddha statues after the Taliban destroyed the site.

In the days following the armed group’s return to power in the summer, UNESCO issued a statement calling for the preservation of the archaeological sites.

Despite the Taliban’s willingness to allow tourists to visit the site, only a small number of visitors come to the place, according to the network report.

Currently, Taliban militants are protecting the historic site that housed the two famous giant statues of Buddha that their leaders blew up in 2001.

Ali Olomi, a historian specializing in Middle East affairs at Pennsylvania State University Abington in the United States, says that Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, who was appointed prime minister to the Taliban government last month, is “one of those behind the destruction of the Buddha statues.”

The Bamiyan Valley is located at an altitude of 2,500 meters in the heart of the Hindu Kush mountain range. It is the westernmost point reached by Buddhism, which made it an important place for pilgrimage.

Over the centuries, the influence of the Indian, Persian, Turkish, Chinese, Mughal and Greek civilizations intersected in this site to form a unique meeting place for these civilizations in the world, which left behind in many sites an extraordinary legacy that few have been discovered.

In their statements since taking power, the Taliban affirm their desire to protect the country’s exceptional archaeological heritage despite the global shock caused by the images of the Buddha statues when they collapsed and the clouds of dust that were emitted at that time.

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