Thursday, July 05, 2012

Breaking News

(Photo from

Remember the Buddhas of Bamiyan? The 2000 year old figures of Buddha in northern Afghanistan were blown to smithereens by the Taliban (but there’s a whole back story there) in 2003. Shortly afterward, I researched the event and predicted that the events of cultural assassination would be increasing in the next several years.
Enter Timbuktu.
The priceless  Mausoleums in this “City of 333 Saints” were listed as an endangered World Cultural Heritage site by UNESCO. Last week, the fundamentalist Islamic group Ansar Dine group, who   grabbed the area withTuareg fighters in April, took exception to the designation. They began battering away at the priceless tombs with pickaxes and hammers claiming the rights to purify the area of idolatry. So far they’ve pulverized eight of the Muslim shrines.
According to UNESCO’s Director Irina Bokova, This destruction is deliberate, undertaken in cold blood to catch the world's attention and destroy the last defenses of Malian identity and strength.
The International Criminal Court has named this kind of cultural destruction a war crime.  

The whole event is sickeningly like Bamiyan and, unfortunately, unlikely to be the last. Which leads to the question, how important are monuments to us all?
And, more widely, how do we rate monuments worthy of protection and those that can be dispensed with for other reasons. This opens a whole can of worms that I'll explore some other time, but for now, get more details at

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