International Journal of Tantric Studies

The Taliban War against Afghan Cultural Heritage

Editorial Note by Enrica Garzilli

Dear Members,

I am glad to announce that Roberto Donatoni has joined us in the editorial board. He is a Sanskrit, and also Tibetan, expert and his field of studies is mainly Tantrism. He serves as a Sanskrit editor in a big Italian publisher house and you can find some information on his book -- the first Italian translation of VidyAraNya's jIvanmuktiviveka -- in our New Titles.

It is very unfortunate that Dr. Max Nihom had to resign as our editor. He has decided to take an all-including academic leave. He has served us in a very scholarly and useful manner and was one of the first academicians to have enthusiastically accepted to join the IJTS. We all thank him for what he has done for us.

The first paper of this year is The Realm of the Divine: Three MaNDalas from the NiSpannayogAvalI, by Terence M. Hays. The NiSpannayogAvalI was written by AbhayAkaragupta, the Buddhist monk lived in the 11th-12th century, and contains the descriptions of a number of Tantric maNDalas. The paper, after offering a brief overview of the historical setting of AbhayAkaragupta and his work, gives the translation, based on Sanskrit texts and their Tibetan Peking edition, of the depiction of three maNDalas, the Five Guardian maNDala the NairAtmA maNDala, and the Sambara MaNDala.

Afghanistan, Buddhas, Women.

Big troubles started in September 1998 when multi-millionaire Osama Bin Laden was expelled from his home of Saudi Arabia for disapproval of the government and took refuge in Afghanistan. Since then he supports the Islamic fundamentalist movement of the Talibans that had taken over the majority of the country.

Bin Laden has called for a jihad, or holy war. He has been trying to unite all Islamic countries against America and Western culture. Ever since the US missions in Kenya and Tanzania were blasted by Islamic fundamentalists, the US has been relentlessly pursuing Bin Laden, who has declared the US as his main enemy. However, in January 21, 2000 Bin Laden declared that he wanted to be friend with US.

It is recent though the news that Talibans & Wahabs emitted edicts against Shia Shrines & Buddhist Relics and have started the actual destruction of the big Bamiyan Buddhas. Offers to buy the actual statues, petitions, protest arose all over the world to stop the barbarian act.

There were Muslim scholars -- in the USA -- protesting the Taliban actions from a Muslim legal perspective, such as that by Azizah Y. al-Hibri published in several professional lists on 14th of March, 2001. Azizah Y. al-Hibri is a professor at the University of Richmond Law School.

UNESCO has launched an international e-mail petition and a special emergency fund to safeguard Afghan cultural heritage, asking people to give the international petition the widest possible distribution in every country. For more news and details on the UNESCO petition and special fund, please consult:

The Arya Buddha Association wants to rebuild the image of Buddha of Bamiyan, one of the greatest heritage of all humanity.
They write:

We have carefully monitored the news from reports and personal information. We are sure that it is possible and we are confident it will happen. Four images, one in India, one in Srilanka and the original too will be restored. We have news clips at our web-site.

They have damaged the original further, but a large part of it still stands. You know that image not completely of stone, but done in clay. We will try to obtain some fragments of the original, if fate will assist us. The so called damage is only a step to full restoration.

So, everybody all over the world and from all the possible parties and groups, also the non-religious ones, have protested and taken action against the uncivilized act of the Talibans. The images of the Buddha should be preserved and these particular Buddhas belong to humankind.

But I have a problem that urges me to talk with all of you. I am using the words of another petition to explain what has been happening in Afghanistan for almost five years, since Talibans took power.

The government of Afghanistan is waging a war upon women. The situation is getting so bad that one person in an editorial of the Times compared the treatment of women there to the treatment of Jews in pre-Holocaust Poland. Since 1996, women have had to wear burqua and have been beaten and stoned in public for not having the proper attire, even if this means simply not having the mesh covering in front of their eyes. One woman was beaten to DEATH by an angry mob of fundamentalists for accidentally exposing her arm while she was driving. Another was stoned to death for trying to leave the country with a man that was not a relative.

Women are not allowed to work or even go out in public without a male relative; professional women such as professors, translators, doctors, lawyers, artists and writers have been forced from their jobs and stuffed into their homes, so that depression is becoming so widespread that it has reached emergency levels. There is no way in such an extreme Islamic society to know the suicide rate with certainty, but relief workers are estimating that the suicide rate among women, who cannot find proper medication and treatment for severe depression and would rather take their lives than live in such conditions, has increased significantly. Homes where a woman is present must have their windows painted so that she can never be seen by outsiders. They must wear silent shoes so that they are never heard. Women live in fear of their lives for the slightest misbehavior. Because they cannot work, those without male relatives or husbands are either starving to death or begging on the street, even if they hold Ph.D.'s. There are almost no medical facilities available for women, and relief workers, in protest, have mostly left the country, taking medicine and psychologists and other things necessary to treat the sky-rocketing level of depression among women. At one of the rare hospitals for women, a reporter found still, nearly lifeless bodies lying motionless on top of beds, wrapped in their burqua, unwilling to speak, eat, or do anything, but slowly wasting away. Others have gone mad and were seen crouched in corners, perpetually rocking or crying, most of them in fear. One doctor is considering, when what little medication that is left finally runs out, leaving these women in front of the president's residence as a form of peaceful protest. Husbands have the power of life and death over their women relatives, especially their wives, but an angry mob has just as much right to stone or beat a woman, often to death, for exposing an inch of flesh or offending them in the slightest way. David Cornwell has said that those in the West should not judge the Afghan people for such treatment because it is a 'cultural thing', but this is not even true. Women enjoyed relative freedom, to work, dress generally as they wanted, and drive and appear in public alone until only 1996 -- the rapidity of this transition is the main reason for the depression and suicide; women who were once educators or doctors or simply used to basic human freedoms are now severely restricted and treated as sub-human in the name of right-wing fundamentalist Islam. It is not their tradition or 'culture', but is alien to them, and it is extreme even for those cultures where fundamentalism is the rule. Besides, if we could excuse everything on cultural grounds, then we should not be appalled that the Carthaginians sacrificed their infant children, that little girls are circumcised in parts of Africa, that blacks in the US deep south in the 1930's were lynched, prohibited from voting, and forced to submit to unjust Jim Crow laws. Everyone has a right to a tolerable human existence, even if they are women in a Muslim country in a part of the world that Westerners may not understand.

My question is: everybody in the West protested against the Buddhas' destruction and such a dissent had, and still has, a large eco in newspapers, televisions, mailing lists, etc. All sort of actions were taken to prevent such a cultural disaster. USA has employed military force in Kosovo in the name of human rights for the sake of ethnic Albanians, and this was helped by all the major Western nations.

Why NATO and the West do not take any kind of action now in Afghanistan to help the direct and indirect genocide against women? Are statues more important than us?

Our New Policy.

We want to announce our now policy. We want to publish a hard copy issue of the IJTS. This involves big expenses for an English copy editor, for a printer, for binding, marketing and distributing the book.

Since the Asiatica is not able to cover up its expenses (new computer programs, electricity, telephone, meetings with editors and members of other organizations that will be associated with us, organization of a conference, publication of a new Asiatica book, etc.), we ask our private members to offer as a contribution an annual fee instead of a life fee. The fee amount will remain the same, as well as the institutional fee.

Therefore, since we are setting up the new pages, as will be written in our next Computer Space by our Technical Editor, Dr. Ludovico Magnocavallo, we will ask all the subscribed members to renew their subscription to the Asiatica Association at the beginning of every solar year. The subscription will be valid throughout the solar year and is considered a support to the association, regardless the number of issues published.

Members will be notified in order to renew their payment ca. a month before the end of the solar year. Members and new subscribers can subscribe later than the beginning of the new year, but the membership will expire anyway at the end of the solar year.

NOTE: regardless the time of subscription, members will be able to read all the past and current IJTS and JSAWS issues.

Our New Address.

The association is located in the same town as before but has a new address. We also have a fax number that is very handy to us and is not located anymore at my university, so you can send a fax for any urgent matter that cannot be sent over the email (such as our copyright agreement).

You can send review copy of books to the same address:

Asiatica Association
Via Vincenzo Bellini, 4
20122 Milano, ITALY
Tel.: +39+02+76011 736
Fax: +39 02 700 511 864