Essay On Cultural Heritage

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A paradigm shift in the way the international community perceives cultural heritage at risk during armed conflict is occurring simultaneously with the current changes of war. ‘War has exposed historic monuments and works of art to two principal dangers: the danger arising out of the practice of taking spoils during or at the close of hostilities, and the danger of destruction from acts of war, especially artillery action and aerial bombardment.’1 Cultural heritage has been in peril from as early as 395 BC when the Romans looted works of art at the sack of Veii, to the fanatic iconoclasm in AD 391 under Emperor Theodosius I who ordered the destruction of all pagan temples, such as the Temple of Serapis in Alexandria. During the Italian Campaigns…show more content…
During the Balkan war of the 1990s, cultural heritage was destroyed as a form of ethnic cleansing4. In March 2001 the Taliban issued an edict to destroy cultural heritage representing anything different than Islam, this form of iconoclasm resulted in the loss of not only the Buddhas of Bamiyan, but also other Afghanistan statues belonging to their heritage. The Director General of UNESCO, Koïchiro Matsuura (1999-2009), issued a public statement against the destruction of Afghanistan statues, stating:
To blindly destroy the statues will not alter history, only deprive the future Afghanistan of one of its riches. I ask that all those concerned, and the highest leader of the Afghans themselves, to immediately take all measures for the protection of this unique cultural heritage. The loss of any Afghan statues, and particularly the Buddhas of Bamiyan, would be a loss for all
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4 The term ‘ethnic cleansing’ was denoted to the acts of violence and armed conflict spurred on by President Slobodan Miloševic who was in pursuit to create an ‘ethnically pure Greater Serbia’; after the western condemnation of the bombing of Dubrovnik and Vukovar in Croatia, western governments although late to action declared in 1992 ‘a deliberate policy of genocide as “ethnic cleansing”’ which led to the deployment of peacekeeping forces. Jane M. O. Sharp, ‘Dayton Report Card’, International Security, 22 (Winter, 1997-1998), 101-137 (pp. 101-02).
5 Mounir Bouchenaki, the Director General of ICCROM (2006-2011) was accompanying the former UNESCO Director General, Mr. Koïchiro Matsuura, on official business to Algeria when the information regarding the Buddhas at Bamiyan was learned; later after the mission to Algeria, Mr. Matsuura, on his return to Paris, stated the cited. Mounir Bouchenaki, ‘UNESCO Action for the Safeguard of the Statues of Buddha and the Prevention of Future Intentional Destruction of Cultural Heritage’, ICCROM International Forum, (Paris, France: ICCROM, 2011).
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