Visitors return to the Afghan National Museum

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KABUL

The Afghan National Museum once again welcomes visitors and exhibits pre-Islamic artifacts with the blessing of the Taliban, in stark contrast to the rampaging and shutting down of facilities by the extremists during their last stint in power.

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A trickle of citizens roamed Kabul’s vast exhibition halls, marveling at treasures ranging from painted Stone Age pottery to ancient coins and religious artifacts.

The museum reopened in late November with permission from the Taliban’s new Ministry of Information and Culture, about three months after the Islamists regained power and ended their two-decade insurgency.

Some of the artifacts on display are fundamentally at odds with radical Taliban ideology, including pottery collections featuring images of animals and humans.

During their first reign from 1996 to 2001, Taliban fighters destroyed objects, including statues in the museum, while tens of thousands of objects were looted and never recovered.

During this period, Islamists also detonated giant 1,500-year-old Buddha statues in the central Bamiyan Valley. But Taliban fighters are now protecting the museum and its treasures from potential attacks by ISIS insurgents.

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According to Chief Curator Ainuddin Sadaqat, there has been no attempt to restrict what is on display. Only “15 to 20% of the exhibits are of Islamic heritage,” the 35-year-old man told AFP. “We also have visitors from the Taliban,” who sometimes come to visit the museum in large numbers, Sadaqat said.

The museum also has a collection of 18th and 19th century jewelry.

The number of visitors is far less than the hundreds of daily visitors under the previous regime, a time when the number was swelled by coaches full of children.

“For the moment, the cultural policy of the Taliban towards the artefacts seems very positive and realistic”, declared Philippe Marquis, former head of the French archaeological delegation in Afghanistan.

Future policy “will likely depend on the reaction of the international community” to the Taliban’s calls to reinstate suspended aid, he added, with the risk that the suspension of this aid will lead to a decline in culture and culture. other policy areas.

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