A month ago, on June 15th, a bus carrying students home from the Sardar Bahadur Khan Women's University in Quetta, Pakistan, was hit by a female suicide bomber.
I swore blind to myself a couple of weeks ago that I'd never publish another word on Bamiyan. I fear deeply for the future of that beautiful valley and its long-suffering people, but I felt I'd reached a point of just repeating myself. One thing Bamiyan should never be is boring.
My book was about the Buddhas of Bamiyan, two gigantic statues carved from a cliff face in central Afghanistan, demolished by the Taliban in 2001. I was reading Breivik, among other reasons, because he's very interested in the Hindu Kush, the band of mountains that sweeps across Afghanistan from the North-East to the West: Bamiyan sits in a valley in the heart of those mountains.
In reality, what is happening in Timbuktu is one group within the broad spectrum of Islam violently imposing its blinkered ideology on another tradition in Islam with which it disagrees.
What good will it do to resurrect one of the Buddhas of Bamiyan if Chehel Burj is allowed to melt away? That's not symbolism but tokenism, the guilty parting gesture of Western powers that know they haven't really done the job.