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No peace for Buddhas of Bamiyan under Taliban

Are sites of historic importance safe under the Taliban?


12 Nov 2021

In March 2001, the world watched in horror as the then Taliban government demolished the ‘Buddhas of Bamiyan’, two large figures carved into the rock over 1400 years ago. The destruction, ordered by the former leader of the Taliban Mullah Mohammed Omar, was seen as a symbol of the Taliban’s intolerance and triggered global condemnation.

Now, footage geolocated by Afghan Witness appears to show Taliban fighters firing at the remnants of the site, which UNESCO includes on its list of World Heritage in Danger.

In the video, posted to Twitter on 1st November, the filmer shows the cliffs at the site from a location near the larger Western Buddha (Salsal). Automatic gunfire can be heard from the 25-second mark, which the filmer says is coming from Taliban.

At 36 seconds, the video cuts to a second view from the same location and zooms in on a car stationed on the road nearby, with several fighters standing next to it, as well as panning across to a niche in the cliffs – gunshots can still be heard. It appears the men are taking turns shooting at the niche, with one man handing the gun over to a second man who is seen raising the gun, aiming and firing at the cliffs at the 1-minute mark.

The video is claimed to have been taken on September 4th, one month after the Taliban took control of the area. Analysis of the video indicated it had not been posted before that date, however AW was unable to confirm the exact date through OSINT methods.

Figure: Panorama from video compared to satellite image of the Buddha statues

Geolocation of the video: Location: 34°49'45.4"N 67°49'10.6"E

Image: Man seen firing at the cliffs approximately 300m away (Capture from video)

Image: The damage to Buddhas of Bamiyan after being blown up by the Taliban in March 2001

Image: A 3D projection of the 56-metre Salsal Buddha during a ceremony in March 2021 – before the Taliban's takeover – to mark the destruction of the Buddha by the Taliban 20 years ago.

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