Talking Points of H.E. Dr. Zahir Tanin Permanent Representative and Ambassador of Afghanistan to the UN at the
Opening Ceremony of Exhibit titled, “Wakhan, an Other Afghanistan” at the United Nations
Ladies and Gentlemen,
- Welcome, all of you, and thank you for attending this special event. It is a pleasure to join you here this evening to view for the first time at the United Nations this impressive collection of photos. To all the sponsors that helped make this event possible, I extend my appreciation for your support.
- I am happy to acknowledge the artists, Fabrice Nadjari and Cedric Houin who photographed their inspirational journey through the Wakhan corridor. Please join me in giving them a round of applause for their impressive work.
- Fabrice and Cedric went on quite an adventure through parts of Afghanistan that the outside world rarely sees due to its remoteness and geographical isolation. Through this adventure, they put together these fascinating pictorial images they have brought world-wide attention to one of the most exquisite areas of the country and region.
- The Wakhan corridor, in the extreme Northeast of Afghanistan, linking Afghanistan and China is where one can see the ultimate beauty of the highest mountains in the world; it is where the Himalayas, Tian Shan, Karakoram, Kunlun and Hindu Kush ranges meet. The Wakhan corridor is 220km long, and between 16 and 64km wide, inhabited by some 12,000 people. Here you can see the landscape that represents the natural features of the broader central Asian region. The people of Wakhan share lineage with people from the greater area of central Asia. We see today that this exhibit reflects not only the tangible image of an impressive landscape, but the astonishing resilience of a people that live, where every moment is a struggle against their harsh natural setting.
- In his masterpiece “The Monuments of Afghanistan,” Warwick Ball says, “The land itself is the natural starting point of any examination of Afghanistan. To the outsider, it is what one first encounters: its Great Plains, its fertile valleys, its mountains are seen as a source of empire by the conqueror, a source of wealth by the merchant, a source of inspiration by the pilgrim. For the people themselves, it is the landscape that has moulded them more than any other single factor: it has inspired their genius, channelled their ideas into certain patterns, and provided a spectacular setting for towns, villages and monuments that are the manifestation of that genius… but it is not the mountains, plains, and deserts alone that give the land its special quality. For the natural landscape are still just a backdrop to the human landscape set in them… the towns, villages, even the fields which adorn the landscapes are as impressive- and massive – as any great monument or work of art.”
- What Warwick Ball is saying about the landscape and diversity is just what we are seeing in today’s exhibition about Wakhan. When you look around at the faces of people in these images, you can see the simple beauty of their preservation of a traditional way of life.
- Afghanistan is viewed as a crossroads, a meeting point of different regions, a distinguished place in the Heart of Asia. In historical terms Afghanistan’s land which “has hosted some of the greatest civilizations… ranged from forming the peripheries of empires centered elsewhere to in turn being the hub of great empires that encompassed lands from Tabriz in the west, the Aral Sea in the north, the Indian Ocean in the south and Benares in the east…no history of China, Persia, India or Russia can be understood without continuing reference to the land locked area at whose centre lie the majestic deserts and sweeping mountain ranges of Afghanistan. Afghanistan has always seemed to be the enigmatic key to the histories and destinies of others.” Due to its unique location, Wakhan exemplifies in its own way a crossroads, and today it can bring regions together, rather than separating them.
- It is my hope that all diplomats and UN staff, particularly those involved in Afghanistan see these photos. After long years of war in Afghanistan, as we embark upon a new decade of peace, we look to faces such as these to remind us of the future we are working towards with all our efforts. This exhibit encourages us to continue sharing stories of hope, success, and determination as we strive to preserve Afghanistan’s rich culture.
- I thank you.
 Ball, Warwick. “The Monuments of Afghanistan: History, Archaeology and Architecture,” I. B. Tauris (August 19, 2008).