Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Buddhist-Afghanistan: "Games Without Rules"

Seven, Wisdom Quarterly; Mitch Jeserich (KPFA), Tamim Ansary (Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan); Brian Calvert (VOA) via Buddhist Art News
Gandhara-style Buddha, Taxila Museum (Amir Taj/fotopedia/blogs.fco.gov.uk)
Priceless gilded Western images of the Buddha from the crossroads of Afghanistan (WQ)

                                                                                                                                                            Download: 679_1-20101209-Tamim-Ansary.mp3                                   LISTEN NOW: Mitch Jeserich (KPFA.org, Pacifica Radio, Berkeley) with Tamim Ansary, author of Games Without Rules: The Often Interrupted History of Afghanistan (download)

Long before Afghanistan was an Islamic country, Buddhist settlements dotted its mountains and deserts. While the Taliban infamously destroyed the giant Buddhist statues of Bamyan Province in 2001, many archeological riches remain. Alongside those buried treasures of the past are mineral riches the U.S. military says could be worth as much as $1 trillion.

Smuggling artifacts out of Gandhara, India, now Pakistan/Afghanistan (CBSNews.com)
  A race against time
Amazing Afghan-Buddhist archeology (BAN)
(VOA) The men are in a race against time. On Mes Aynak Mountain, in Afghanistan’s Logar Province, they are digging out some of the country’s oldest treasures. As fast as they can.

They have only two years to recover artifacts from four main sites around the mountain before a Chinese copper mine moves in.

“Well we are trying but the problem is the site is very huge and our archeologists, we only have 24 archeologists, and an institute, and we need more,” said Khair Muhammad Khairzada, who is with the Afghan Institute of Archaeology.

Border dispute with Pakistan (voanews.com)
The Buddhists were thriving here around 1,500 years ago. The site was a pilgrimage destination and a monastery.  Even back then, it was known for its copper.  Mes Aynak means Copper of Aynak.

Within next two years, Chinese to mine
Theravada-Thailand: Protect Afghanistan! (dmc.tv)
Looters have taken most of the treasures above ground.  They even drilled tunnels and made off with the tops of giant statues.  Erosion took its toll as well.  And now the Chinese have come to recover billions of dollars worth of copper.

The China Metallurgical Group established a camp here in 2009.  By 2014, miners will begin tearing down the mountain.
Archaeologist Abdul Qadir Temori say two years is not enough time.
“Yes, it is a limited amount of time. Only an archeologist would understand what a limited time it is,” he said.

US soldiers and future peace activists
An extension of the dig is not expected. The $4 billion deal is Afghanistan’s largest ever and would provide needed jobs and revenue for this war-weary country.

But the archeologists say it is not worth it.
Hundreds of ancient treasures, forever lost
“History will judge them. There’s no difference between the terrorists and the Chinese, because terrorists are destroying our artifacts with their guns and weapons and the Chinese are destroying them by money,” said archaeologist Temori.
  • Ancient Greece: Greco-Bactrian King Menander (Milinda) converted to Buddhism ca 150 BCE. During his reign Buddhism spread from India through Afghanistan up through Central Asia and into Europe (Kalmykia):
Buddhist monks with Greek king (WHP)
Hundreds of ancient treasures have been unearthed here since digging began in earnest.  They are filling the National Museum.  An untold number of artifacts remain below the earth.  But so does the copper.

So the race continues to save the riches of Afghanistan’s past from the riches of its future. Before long, the mountain these men are working on will be gone.

(April 23, 2013) In formerly Buddhist Afghanistan, a Chinese mining company (MCC) threatens to destroy the remains of an ancient Buddhist city and massive temple complex, which archaeologists are now racing to excavate.
Games Without Rules
Tamim Ansary (Games Without Rules)
Today, most Westerners still see the war in Afghanistan as a contest between democracy and Islamist fanaticism.
That war is real, but it sits atop an older struggle between Kabul and the countryside, between order and chaos, between a modernist impulse to join the world and the pull of an older Afghanistan: a tribal universe of village republics permeated by Islam.

Now, [Afghan-born US citizen and historian] Tamim Ansary draws on his Afghan background, Muslim roots, and Western and Afghan sources to explain history [in English] from the inside out, and to illuminate the long, internal struggle that the outside world has never fully understood.

It is the story of a nation struggling to take form, a nation undermined by its own demons while, every 40 to 60 years, a great power crashes in and disrupts whatever progress has been made.

(Destiny Disrupted)
Told in conversational, storytelling style [in Ansary's excellent English], and focusing on key events and personalities, Games without Rules provides revelatory insight into a country at the center of political debate.
(Kirkus) “A breezy, accessible overview of centuries of messy Afghan history, including the present military quagmire…. As a native of Kabul, Ansary lends precious insight into the makeup of the typical Afghan village, with its tidy, self-sufficient, patriarchal hierarchy and need to keep the nomads at bay… Lively instruction on how Afghanistan has coped, and continues to cope, with being a strategic flash point.” More
Amazing ancient Buddhist sites from Siddhartha the Buddha's homeland (BAN)

Base of a life-sized Buddha, one of more than 200 found at Afghanistan's Mes Aynak site, sits alongside hundreds of other statues depicting figures (Jay Price/MCT/BAN).
It has been incorrectly reported that Chinese archeological site destruction and mineral mining at Mes Aynak, the ancient Buddhist temple complex "Copper Well," was due to begin in 2013. It is not set to begin until 2014.
(SaveMesAynak.org) (Brent Huffman, BAAG.org.uk) (BuddhasOfAynak) (change.org)

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