Wikimedia CH/Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk

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Afghanistan Cultural Heritage at Risk



In the past weeks, the international community has watched with growing concern the events unfolding across Afghanistan. Cultural organizations and institutions from all over the world are especially alarmed by the threats faced by the civilian population, and the men and women of Afghanistan who dedicate their lives to protecting the rich and diverse cultural heritage of this nation.

The country and its rich and diverse cultural heritage is once again facing the threat of looting and illegal traffic. In situations such as these, there is no specific item that is at risk. Vandals and thieves will profit of the instability in Afghanistan to steal or destroy cultural heritage for a variety of reasons, including personal gain or political motivation. To protect it, we need to work together.

In 2006, ICOM published a Red List of Afghan of cultural objects and art pieces that are particularly vulnerable, from Buddhist statues and paintings to Islamic manuscripts. The Red Lists which ICOM publish for many other regions of the world include images provided by museums to illustrate the objects.
Follow the Twitter thread for more information about the respective objects by clicking on the bird.

They are used by the police, customs officers, auction houses, museums, and citizens to identify these objects and prevent their commercialization in the black market. In particular, the Red List for Afghanistan helped identify, recover, and return 1,500 pieces to the National Museum in Kabul. The current situation in Afghanistan might undo all this work and further threaten the cultural heritage of the country.

International cooperation is key in the fight against illicit trafficking of cultural property, and everyone can play a part in protecting the world’s cultural heritage. Help us spread the word and raise awareness about the threat of illicit trafficking in Afghanistan: share this page with friends and professional contacts to ensure that as many people as possible become familiar with the categories of Afghan cultural objects at risk.


An initiative by ICOM International and Wikimedia CH

The ICOM Red Lists

  • The ICOM Red Lists present the categories of cultural objects that can be subjected to theft and traffic. They help individuals, organisations and authorities, such as police or customs officials, identify objects at risk and prevent them from being illegally sold or exported.

  • It is important to highlight that a Red List is not a list of stolen objects. The cultural goods depicted on the lists are inventoried objects within the collections of recognized institutions and they serve to illustrate the categories of cultural goods most vulnerable to illicit traffic.

  • If you find a suspicious object being sold or transported through customs, please refer to the ICOM Red List of Afghan Antiquities at Risk, ask questions about the provenance and, if in doubt, contact the authorities.

  • ICOM has been publishing Red Lists since the year 2000, with the scientific collaboration of national and international experts and the unwavering support of dedicated sponsors, to cover the most vulnerable areas of the world in terms of illicit trafficking of cultural objects.

  • The lists are published in different languages according to the context of each List. Among other success stories, these tools have contributed to the identification, recovery and restitution of thousands of cultural objects, including over 1,500 objects successfully sent back to the Kabul National Museum in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2009.

  • The Red Lists are freely available in digital format, while booklets are distributed primarily to law enforcement agencies. Everyone involved in the trade or protection of cultural objects is invited to consult and disseminate the Lists in order to maximize the use and impact of this internationally recognized tool.

How to participate & contribute

Wikimedia Commons
If you have knowledge and access to media files and collections depicting objects from categories included in the Red List of ICOM regarding the Afghan Antiquities at risk, that are in public domain or available under a CC-BY-SA license please upload them to Wikimedia Commons and make them visible in the following image gallery:

In order to visualize Afghan cultural heritage at risk of looting or illicit traffic, you can contribute in creating a subcategory for Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk according to the structure of the ICOM Red List, under the following main category:

If you are familiar with Wikidata and have knowledge and access to structured meta data related to Afghan cultural heritage at risk, you can contribute in injecting and completing structured data in Wikidata. If you know how to use Wikidata Query Service, you might create useful queries to visualize Afghanistan Antiquities at Risk. Please share your contribution with us in this section or contact us directly.

Wikipedia Articles
As a beginner or intermediate Wikipedia author you can contribute for example by improving and completing an existing article about Afghan cultural objects at risk, inserting appropriate images and image galleries, inserting links and sources, updating info boxes or inserting Wikidata info boxes into Wikipedia articles. If you are an expert Wikipedia author you might engage in creating a completely new article or translate an existing article in a different language.

We have set up an outreach dashboard for this project, where you can share with us your work. If you want to enroll and assign the articles or categories you are working on, click on the action button below.

Outreach Dashboard

Other Projects, Resources & Links

Please share in this section your activities and projects as well as resources and links if you have relevant information and access to digitized material, research and collections related to the Afghanistan Cultural Heritage at risk initiative.

Contact information and
Wikimedia Chapters in the world supporting this initiative

If you are supporting this project and its purpose actively, please add your Chapter and contact information in the following table and share your activities with us.
WM chapter For voluntary community For cultural institutions For communication and press
WMCH info