The international community – including the United Nations and various international NGOs – along with concerned Afghans are working across the country to protect, preserve, and restore the country’s priceless treasures.
Here is a cross-section of organizations involved in saving Afghanistan’s past:
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization The UNESCO office in Kabul was established in June 2002 to contribute to the reconstruction efforts being undertaken by the United Nations and the international community. UNESCO, as a specialized UN Agency, has the responsibility of promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan by building the foundations of peace through a comprehensive programme in education, science, culture and communication.
1922 – 2009: The French Archaeological Delegation in Afghanistan DAFA was created in 1922, at the request of the Government of Afghanistan, to conduct archaeological research in the country. After an interruption during World War II, excavation work resumed from 1946 until its closure in 1982. In 2002, in agreement with the Ministry of Information and Afghan Culture, the French Ministry of Foreign Affairs decided to re-open and resume the activities of DAFA in Afghanistan. The delegation’s aim is to develop knowledge of Afghanistan’s rich past by organizing Franco-Afghan archaeological missions. These involve continuing the inventory of archaeological remains and leading excavations within certain scientific research programmes in order to save sites that are affected by illegal excavations or threatened by development programmes. The other objectives of DAFA include the training of heritage professionals and the protection, restoration and promotion of Afghanistan’s heritage.
The main field operations of the organization are located in the north of Afghanistan, in Balkh province. DAFA is excavating two sites (the old city of Balkh and Tcheshme Shafâ, an important site 20 km south of Balkh) and is working in collaboration with the Aga Khan Trust for Culture for the study and the restoration of the Hadji Piadah (Noh Gombad) mosque. DAFA is also providing scientific and technical assistance to the National Institute of Archaeology for the excavations of the Buddhist site of Mès Ainak in Logar province.
Delegation Archeologique Francaise en Afghanistan
Aga Khan Trust for Culture Since 2008 AKTC has implemented a range of rehabilitation initiatives on the historic urban fabric and landscape in Kabul and Herat. In addition to safeguarding important architectural heritage, the Trust’s programme aims to improve living conditions through labour-intensive upgrading and to promote economic recovery through the development of skills among Afghan craftspeople and professionals.
To date, the Trust has undertaken the restoration of more than 60 historic public and private buildings, along with investments in upgrading of basic infrastructure benefiting some 50,000 inhabitants of historic quarters in Kabul and Herat. In addition, the Trust continues to provide technical assistance to Afghan counterpart institutions as part of efforts to ensure more effective processes of planning and urban management. An important aspect of this is support for professional education at Kabul University.
Since 2004, the Aga Khan Music Initiative for Central Asia has operated music schools in Kabul and Herat, where more than 100 students receive instruction in playing of a range of traditional instruments from experienced master-musicians.
In 2009, the Aga Khan Trust for Culture launched the Afghan Cultural Initiative which aims to explore synergies between those working in the realms of traditional architecture, crafts, fine arts, folk music and social history.
Aga Khan Trust for Culture
Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Established in 1994 by a group of concerned individuals, including noted historian Nancy Hatch Dupree, in response to the growing awareness of the vulnerability of the cultural heritage of Afghanistan, SPACH worked to promote cultural heritage as an integral part of the overall reconstruction effort. The organization partnered with the Afghan community to raise awareness of the central importance of cultural heritage and the significant role that Afghan heritage can play in building peace.
Since the outbreak of war in 1979, major historical monuments, artefacts and archaeological sites across the country have been threatened by fighting, looting and neglect. This threat became acute in 1992 with the looting and destruction of the Kabul Museum and culminated in 2001 when the international community witnessed the destruction of the Buddhas of Bamyan.
One event in particular that brought the founders of SPACH together was the concern about the looting of the Kabul Museum. Between 1994 and 1996 a total of 48 important objects looted from the Kabul Museum were returned to the Ministry of Information and Culture by the organization. SPACH has remained inactive since 2008.
Society for the Preservation of Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage
Turquoise Mountain Foundation Turquoise Mountain was established in March 2006, at the request of the UK’s Prince Charles, the Prince of Wales, and Hamid Karzai, President of Afghanistan. It has the three-fold objective of regenerating historic urban areas, renewing traditional Afghan arts and architecture, and spurring the sustainable development of the nation’s craft industry.
Since its inception, Turquoise Mountain has established the internationally accredited Institute for Afghan Arts and Architecture, which comprises Schools of Woodworking, Calligraphy & Painting, Ceramics, and Jewellery & Gem-Cutting. Turquoise Mountain has also helped in rebuilding homes, laying infrastructure, and preserving historic buildings. In addition, the Institute has opened a school and clinic in Murad Khane, a quarter of Kabul’s old city.