BAMIYAN, Afghanistan — Sayed Mirza Hussain faced a wrenching dilemma: commit a shocking act of cultural destruction or be shot by the Taliban.
It was just months before the 9/11 attacks, and Hussain was being held prisoner by the fundamentalist group which controlled most of Afghanistan. The Taliban was at the height of its power and on a mission to destroy all pre-Islamic icons.
At up to 190 feet high, the Bamiyan Buddhas towered over the valley below. The statues dated to the sixth century when the area was a holy site for Buddhists on the Silk Road, the ancient trading route between China and Europe.
Their destruction took place over 25 days in early 2001. Huge cavities in the spectacular sandstone cliffs now mark the spot where the giant Buddhas once stood.