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August 17, 2021

NetworkStatement concerning the situation facing cultural heritage in Afghanistan

In recent days, ICOM – along with the international community – has watched with concern the events unfolding across Afghanistan.

ICOM is especially alarmed by the threats faced by the civilian population, and the men and women of Afghanistan who dedicate their lives to protecting the rich and diverse cultural heritage of this historic nation.

ICOM expects that all authorities across Afghanistan will continue to respect the integrity of museums, their collections, and the heritage sites, as well as the heritage professionals who hold and safeguard this rich tangible and intangible heritage in trust for all Afghan people without distinction of ethnicity, gender, or political opinion.

In addition, we expect that the authorities continue to abide by their international obligations to protect heritage as a state-party to the 1954 Hague Convention for the Protection of Cultural Property and its protocols, and the UNESCO 1970 Convention on the Means of Prohibiting and Preventing the Illicit Import, Export and Transfer of Ownership of Cultural Property.

Seeing the events in recent days, ICOM recalls the painful challenges the people of Afghanistan have faced in the last decades to protect their past. Many men and women who seek to protect the cultural heritage of Afghanistan have risked their lives in doing so; criminal organisations have profited from the sale of looted and illegally excavated Afghan cultural objects; and heritage sites have been irreversibly damaged.

Throughout these terrible crises, ICOM together with many other international organisations has stood alongside the people of Afghanistan to protect their heritage from all threats. In the 1990s, ICOM hosted workshops to highlight heritage looted from museums, and in the 2000s ICOM published a Red List of Cultural Objects at Risk for Afghanistan. ICOM and the museum community’s efforts to fight against the illicit trafficking of cultural property from Afghanistan and to raise awareness continue to be visible.

ICOM is currently working closely with its international partners and actors in the region and monitoring the situation as it evolves. We will continue to offer whatever support it can to alleviate any potential threats the heritage of Afghanistan may face in the uncertain days and weeks to come.

Image: Smaller Buddha of Bamiyan – Didier Vanden Berghe (File:Bouddhas de Bâmiyân – Aout 2005.jpg) Marco Bonavoglia (File:Afghanistan Statua di Budda 2.jpg) Derivative work: PodzemnikCC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons