Dated: Jul 2, 2015
Dear Ms. Irina Bokova,
I wanted to take a moment to say how much I appreciated your recent statement expressing concern over the destruction of cultural heritages in Iraq and Syria, Mali and Afghanistan. Your outstanding and tireless efforts to preserve world’s shared cultural wealth is invaluable. I heard through the news that you referred to the destruction of historic monuments and cultural heritages of religious, education, art, science or charitable importance a war crime. I could not agree more.
The barbaric destruction of historic monuments and cultural heritage in Syria, Iraq, Libya and Yemen reminds me of the darkest days the Taliban militants destroyed the colossal Buddha statues of Bamyan, museum relics and other cultural riches of Afghanistan in 2001. Every time I hear the news of harm to cultural heritages, it pierces my heart. The recent brutal and deliberate destruction of heritages on an unprecedented scale requires a joint global call for action.
I had the responsibility of running the National Museum of Afghanistan from 2002 to 2015, a museum that lost a significant amount of its collection during the civil war, but thanks to UNESCO and other international organizations that helped us bring back some of the relics. Without international communities’ support, it was impossible for Afghans alone reclaim some of the artifacts and preserve the remaining cultural heritages of our country that needed immediate and urgent attention.
The preservation and enhancement of a shared cultural heritage is vital to mutual understanding between the diverse groups of people living across the region and the world’]. Local and regional authorities play a significant role in the preservation and enhancement of cultural and historical riches of the world. Governments have the primary responsibility of protecting historical riches. Their responsibility for education is as important. Education also helps a better understanding of both tangible and intangible cultural heritage and helps development of a toolkit for managing and protecting historical heritage.
Therefore since 2006, with financial support from South Asia Foundation, we tried to provide training grounds to the people engaged with cultural fields in the provinces of the country to help protect the country’s rich cultural heritage and not to let it once again to fall into hands of the criminals to use it for their own interests. Since 2013 we have been organizing the cultural heritage preservation awareness programs in Kabul and other provinces of the country to further raise the values of our unique heritage on one hand and to respect and preserve the monuments, historical sights and other tangible and intangible heritage on the other hand.
Your recent declaration of Emergency Response Action Plan to safeguard Iraq and Syria’s cultural heritage gave me the pleasure to write you this letter and appreciate your remarkable efforts with respect to preservation of world cultural heritage, in particular the heritage of Islamic countries.
I avail this opportunity to renew my compliments and wish you all success in the noblest way of cultural activities.
Omara Khan Masoudi
Chairman, South Asia Foundation-Afghanistan
Former Director of National Museum of Afghanistan