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The people of Bamian also recognise that they have other problems facing them. Asif, another student at Bamian University, wants to study literature, especially Shakespeare and Chaucer. ‘But,' he says, ‘we don't have any literature books.' Abdullah is concerned that Bamian is neglected because, unlike other provinces in Afghanistan, it does not have a drug problem. ‘Because we have no opium, it means that the government does not pay attention to us. We are forgotten. We have no doctors, no clinics. Our girls are not educated.'

There is also a feeling that reconstruction of the Buddhas would never make up for their destruction. ‘If you do reconstruct, to what lengths do you go?' asks Dupree. Before their destruction, the Buddhas had already been extensively damaged over time, with the faces and some limbs missing and all the gold and paint with which they were once adorned gone. ‘So do you put them back as we have known them, half damaged, or do you try to reconstruct them as they once were with all the paint and gold?' Professor Zemaryalai Tarzi, a French-Afghan archaeologist who is ‘a 100 per cent' sure that, during excavations he is currently undertaking, he will find a third gigantic reclining Buddha, believes that there is a political reason for not reconstructing the Buddhas. ‘The niches should stand as two empty pages to show to future generations in which year the stupidity of people destroyed the culture of Afghanistan.'

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