Afghanistan’s Cultural Heritage Under Siege: Preservation and Patrimony in Wartime

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With conflict in the Middle East escalating, concern in archaeological circles is rampant for the region’s cultural heritage (for a poignant example, read this article from Heritage Daily).  How is preservation accomplished during times of violence and unrest?  Let’s take Afghanistan as a case study in this special encore presentation. Preservation of cultural heritage is one of the main concerns for nations worldwide. Yet, the maintenance and promotion of cultural patrimony poses unique concerns in areas of war and conflict. More specifically, monuments and sites symbolizing cultural heritage are often at the core of conflicts in nations embroiled in ethnic or religion-based transitions in hegemony. Afghanistan currently embodies a national struggle for identity as various groups struggle for power and dominance. The most visible aspect of cultures in conflict is their grand architecture and monuments attesting to the historic passage from Buddhism to Islam. The destruction of the Buddhist statuary at Bamyan by the Taliban in March 2001 arguably precipitated the cycle of war in Iraq and Afghanistan. Join our discussion with Omar Sultan, former Deputy Minister of Culture in Afghanistan, and Dr. Laura Tedesco, current Cultural Heritage Resource Manager for the US State Department for Afghanistan.

tedescoDr. Laura Tedesco serves as Cultural Heritage Program Manager for the U.S. State Department in Afghanistan. She was posted in Kabul for 16 months where she oversaw and guided US efforts to support and preserve Afghan cultural heritage sites and monuments. Dr. Tedesco holds a PhD in Anthropology from New York University where her area of study included the Near East and Central Asia. Before joining the State Department, Dr. Tedesco worked at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. She has conducted field research in the Republics of Georgia and Armenia, as well as in Syria and other nations in western and south Asia.

Mr. Omar Sultan is an expert on Afghan culture and heritage. He served as Deputy Minister of Information and Culture to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan from 2005 through 2011. He holds Bachelor and Mastersultan Degrees in Art and Archaeology from Aristotelian University in Thessaloniki, Greece. A brilliant spokesperson and representative for the preservation of Afghan cultural heritage, Mr. Sultan is a native of Kabul and participated in several important excavations in Afghanistan in the 1970s. He currently lives in North Carolina and is a founding member of Americans for Permanent Peace in Afghanistan.

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