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Ancient Monuments in Herat in Danger of Being Lost Rate Topic: -----

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Posted 31 December 2010 - 03:24 PM

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By Zahir Eztarabi

alt
The tomb of Kamaluddin Bahzad, a famous 15th-century miniaturist – lies nearly in ruins. Nevertheless, it used to be marked by a distinctive tombstone. Now visitors who make the long climb to the top of the hill where Bahzad lies buried will have a hard time identifying his grave – the stone has disappeared.

Ghulam Haider Kabiri, 65, an expert on Herat’s ancient monuments, said that up until one year ago Bahzad’s tomb was topped with a marble stone, approximately 30 centimeters wide and 180 centimeters long, with colored writing.

The nearby grave of Rustam Ali, Bahzad’s nephew, was also marked with a stone, he added. But both markers have vanished.

Ayamuddin Ajmal, head of an international project charged with protecting Herat’s ancient monuments, told www.afghanistanvotes.com that Rustam Ali’s tombstone had been stolen, but that of Bahzad had been moved to the Herat museum.

“We have been forced to shift valuable stones like Bahzad’s to a safe place,” said Ajmal. “We have many times asked the appropriate authorities to make new markers to identify the graves of those whose tombstones have been moved to the museum. They have not yet reacted, saying they have no budget.”

Herat is one of Afghanistan’s richest cultural and historical treasures, containing many invaluable monuments. As such it often comes under attack by smugglers and other profiteers. The Ministry of Information and Culture, as well as other entities tasked with historic preservation, have been unable to prevent such attacks.

According to Ajmal, there have been 12 cases of theft recorded in Herat over the past two years. One of the worst occurred just three months ago, in May, when artifacts from the Buddhist, Ghorian and Temorian eras were stolen from Herat’s National Museum.

Based on Ajmal’s remarks, one of the thieves accused of the museum heist died in prison under suspicious circumstances.

altIn another incident, two valuable tombstones were taken from the shrines of Khoja Nezamuddin and Khoja Sadruddin, in the northern part of the city. Parts of the shrine itself were also dug up at the same time.

Herat has been hoping for some time to gain status as a historic city on UNESCO’s register. Failure to place the city under UNESCO protection is another reason that monuments are disappearing, said Ajmal.

The city was also one of the most popular tourist destinations in Afghanistan. But the government’s failure to take action to protect the architectural and historical treasures of the city has endangered its priceless legacy.

Herat’s old city is about 321 square kilometers, with 200 houses. It starts at Chawk-e-Cinema and ends in Spin Ade. The city is in the process of being restored to its original appearance; 54 houses have already been repaired by the Aga Khan Foundation. But so far, according to experts, the government has done little.

Residents of the old city also contribute to its decline by violating the agreement on historical preservation. They repair or sell their properties with no regard to historical value, and without consulting those in charge of protecting the ancient monuments.

Shops that cater to the tourist industry also do their share of harm. Hundreds of stores sell ancient artifacts in violation of the laws on historic preservation. They steal monuments such as tombstones and break them into smaller pieces to sell. The museum contains many artifacts seized from smugglers.

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