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Homeless Afghans take shelter in Buddhist grottoes


04-15-2016 00:32 BJT

15 years ago, the Taliban blew up two monumental Buddha statues, and destroyed many residential buildings in Afghanistan's Bamiyan Valley. Instead of moving, the thousands left homeless by the destruction continue to live in the Buddhist grottoes near the remains of the Bamiyan Buddhas.

After the Taliban's rule ended in 2001, many locals returned to their hometown, but found out that they had no place to live.

"Our former house is gone. It's said that it was burned down by the Taliban," Grotto dweller Anisa said.

Without sufficient money to build a new house, Anisa's family is one of over 700 others that have no choice but to live in the grottoes.

The cultural landscape and archaeological remains of the Bamiyan Valley was listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 2003.

To protect the cultural relics, the local government launched an initiative, allocating land to the grotto residents for them to build houses.

However, the initiative did not work.

"We earn less than 100 Afghani (about 2 US dollars) per day, not even enough to buy food. How can we afford to build a house?" Anisa said.

The local government said they face a dilemma between resettling the families and protecting the relics.

"Many people think these families should leave the Buddhist grottoes as soon as possible, because a conservation area can only be set up once they have left. But we are faced with many problems when it comes to resettling them, and we cannot solve them immediately. In terms of resettlement, we are also finding it difficult to get funding from the UNESCO," Bamiyan province Governor  Mohammad Tahir Zuhair said.

Governor Zuhair said they have asked the central government to allocate a special fund for them to resettle the families, but with the weak domestic economy, progress is slow.

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