by Abdul Haleem, Jawid Omid
KABUL, May 18 (Xinhua) -- "The situation of the National Museum improved markedly compared to the past as it has been rehabilitated and efforts are underway to further improve its state of affairs," Director of the National Museum of Afghanistan, Mohammad Fahim Rahimi said optimistically.
Once popular for having rare collections and preserving regional cultural heritage dating back several millennia, the National Museum of Afghanistan had been badly damaged and more than 70 percent of some 100,000 objects on display had been destroyed or looted during the destructive factional fighting among several armed groups in the 1990s.
In 1996 when the Taliban group captured Kabul, the hardliner militants vandalized the remaining treasures inside the museum.
Regarding statues depicting humans as being un-Islamic, the then radical Taliban hierarchy, during its six-year reign which collapsed in late 2001, also dynamited the giant Buddhas in Bamyan and instructed its fighters to destroy any sculpture found in Afghanistan.
"Currently we have about 5,000 artifacts and statues in the museum here and we are trying our best to collect all the objects of the museum lost in the past and bring them back," Rahimi told Xinhua on the eve of the International Museum Day which falls on May 18.
Built in 1919, the Afghan national museum like other institutions in Afghanistan had been badly damaged due to the endemic war and civil strife and thousands of valuable relics had been destroyed, looted or smuggled outside Afghanistan.
"Around 30,000 items belonging to the museum have been retrieved from different countries since 2002," the director said, adding "since 2007, around 7,000 valuable relics have been returned from Japan, Britain and Germany."
Describing the future of the National Museum of Afghanistan as "promising," the director of the museum said that 102 pieces from the museum had been returned from Japan last year and efforts to further replenish the museum with its original artifacts are ongoing.
"If more and more relics are returned to the museum its importance will be restored and the number of visitors to the museum would go up," said Rahimi.
Currently, more than 200 people including Afghans and foreigners visit the museum every day, the official said, adding that further improvement to the museum's condition would attract more visitors.
Visibly impressed with the rehabilitation and restoration process of the museum, a visitor of the collections inside the compound, Ahmad Jan Zazi, said that the Afghan national museum deserves more "decoration and more enrichment" to retain its "former glorious position" in the region.
"In fact, this museum is a repository of past civilizations which forged our national identity, therefore it is the responsibility of the government and all Afghan citizens to preserve our history by protecting and preserving the national museum," Zazi said.