The U.S. administration announcing withdrawal from UNESCO

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The Trump administration made a startling announcement last week that it would withdraw from UNESCO, for concerns regarding the group’s “anti-Israel bias” and its amounting arrears. 

It was announced, according to the New York Times, that the U.S. government will only continue to provide "American perspective and expertise to UNESCO" "as a nonmember observer." The withdrawal goes into effect at the end of 2018.

Irina Bokova, UNESCO’s director general, however, argued that UNESCO is “so relevant to the political agenda of the American government it’s incredible.” According to her statement, reported in the New York Times, UNESCO’s largest literacy program is in Afghanistan, training teachers and preserving cultural heritage in the liberated areas of Afghanistan, Libya, and Iraq.

Despite the discouraging political decision by the Trump administration, UNESCO seems yet to be firm in its plans to help preserve and document artifacts across Mes Aynak over a three-year period. UNESCO is providing its expertise to support archaeological efforts of Afghan's Ministry of Information and Culture - but this does not stop any of the demolition plans of Mes Aynak. 

We feel that it's in times like this that all the international supporters of Mes Aynak should stand together to keep raising awareness to the issues on site. 

Saving Mes Aynak Fall update: Interview on CNBC, international screenings, and more

Three years into the release of "Saving Mes Aynak" at International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, we have seen incredible changes around the world. 

More artifacts from Mes Aynak have been moved and unveiled at the National Museum of Afghanistan in Kabul than ever, as "Saving Mes Aynak" continued to screen around the world. However, Trump administration has shown possible interest in claiming its stakes in the mineral reserve of Afghanistan. 

Please read on for more updates and stories from Mes Aynak.

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Despite the ongoing instability, Mes Aynak archaeologists on site have continued to find a way to work at the archaeological site.
A 2012 excavation from Mes Aynak has been spectacularly restored by a team of French, Italian, and Afghan workers, and now unveiled at the Kabul National Museum (pictured above).

Furthermore, the Afghan Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC), where Qadir is leading as the Head of the Archaeology Department, recorded 5,260 ancient sites through various Afghan provinces - a major development since the "Saving Mes Aynak"'s awareness campaign. Qadir's team, along with international crew of experts, is mapping all archaeological sites pipelining the nation. 

 

International Screenings

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"Saving Mes Aynak" traveled to some new places this summer. Starting with Stockholm, Sweden for Afghan Documentary Film Festival, the film was invited to The Art-Law Center of University of Geneva, for a screening with Professor Marc-André Renold, an attorney-at-law in the area of cultural heritage law as well as the director of the Art-Law Center.

In the U.S., "Saving Mes Aynak" returned to UChicago in continuation of many meaningful screenings and collaborations, for a screening with Professor Larry Rothfield's "Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diplomacy" class. Professor Rothfield, also the co-founder of UChicago's  Cultural Policy Center, previously led a panel talk for the film's Chicago screening. Director Brent E. Huffman later spoke at the UChicago's  Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society for the panel on "Antiquities as Global Contraband: What Do We Know, and What Can We Do? - Lessons from Afghanistan."

"Saving Mes Aynak" continued to screen across the U.S. at Verde Valley Archaeology Center for the International Archaeology Film Festival in Arizona, with the Buddhist Sitting Group in Georgia, with Midwest Buddhist Temple in Chicago, and finally, for the 4th time in Florida for a screening with the Tallahassee Film Society. Director Brent E. Huffman attended a campus-wide screening at UC Berkeley; the film returned to California for a screening at Fowler Museum of UCLA. "Saving Mes Aynak" also traveled East Coast for a screening with American Institute of Afghan Studies at Boston University.

"Saving Mes Aynak" also screened to the townspeople of Stockach, a small German town not far from the Swiss border. This screening was a long-time labor of love by a volunteer who also helped translate the film into German. A host to various refugees from the Middle East, the Stockach community came together for a special "Saving Mes Aynak" screening, with two Afghan settlers who spoke about their experiences. 

Another volunteer who translated the film into Macedonian, Bulgarian, and Croatian, connected the film with University of Skopje students, who organized a screening at the Museum of Macedonia.  The Association of Archaeology Students of Skopje (Axios) put the local screening and press materials together for the film's first-ever showing in Macedonia.

"Saving Mes Aynak" also had the rare chance to screen in India twice this year. For World Environmental Film Festival in Hyderabad, India, "Saving Mes Aynak" screened to high school and college students throughout the city. "Saving Mes Aynak" also screened at the Buddha International Film Festival, where it won the Best Direction Award!

"Saving Mes Aynak" also returns to a few festivals and locations, starting with Italy for the International Archaeological Film Festival of Rassegna
Saving Mes Ayank also will screen again at Beirut Art Film Festival as part of a university screening series, and on Histoire, a French history TV channel.
We are extremely honored to see the film engaging audiences around the world! 

Interested in hosting a screening of Saving Mes Aynak? Contact us

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Saving Mes Aynak now has Chinese subtitles! Volunteers have continued to generously offer their time and efforts to making the film more widely available to all. Soon the film will be available in Vietnamese as well! 

Interested in translating the film into a new language? Please visit here.

 

Recognitions for Saving Mes Aynak

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Saving Mes Aynak has been named CINE Golden Eagle Finalist in the category of Nonfiction Content: Feature – Current Affairs or Investigations. Other honorees included POV's Hooligan Sparrow and The Return, Al Jazeera Media Network's The Poacher's Pipeline, and EPIX's original documentary series America Divided. We are grateful for this honor and congratulations to all finalists!

Saving Mes Aynak also took home Best Direction Award from the Buddha International Film Festival, held at the National Film Archive of India. 

We are grateful for all the opportunities to show the film around the world and for audience's generous recognition. 

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Spread the word - "Saving Mes Aynak" is available on Netflix! If looking to see the film outside the U.S., watch it on VHX

Additionally, Blueshift Education developed a printable brochure for community screenings, a Screening Guide for educators and cultural institutions. All these tools are available for free for everyone to raise awareness and call to action.

 

Recent Mes Aynak News

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The second half of 2017 has brought a whirlwind surrounding Mes Aynak.

The former general manager of the state-owned China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC) has been expelled from the Community Party for corruption. It's a political death sentence for an official who had much say in sealing the mining deal between the Chinese and Afghan government in 2007, and a possible shake in MCC's further plans to start the demolition process of Mes Aynak in 2017. 

However, Trump administration seems to be interested in claiming a stake in Afghanistan's natural resources. 

Stephen Feinberg, the billionaire financier who owns the military contractor DynCorp International, is informally advising Trump on Afghanistan, according to a report in The New York Times, which said the company may potentially play a role in safeguarding American mining operations. "We have no expectation of supporting commercial mining programs, but continue to work at the direction of the U.S. government," a DynCorp representative told CNBC. According to the CNBC report, Trump administration is hoping to recoup the $700 billion spent on Afghan war with the struggling nation's mineral wealth. 

However, "American investment could potentially be worse," told Director Brent E. Huffman CNBS; as evidenced by the interviews and research shown in "Saving MesAynak," the sale of the mining rights would "solely benefit a very small number of corrupt officials."The future of Mes Aynak, Afghanistan's largest treasure trove of historical and cultural knowledge, remains uncertain.

Despite the constant instability, the incredible perseverance of Mes Aynak archaeologists and supporters continues to amaze us as we, the "Saving Mes Aynak" team, continue our work to raise awareness around the world.
 

Together we MUST SAVE MES AYNAK in 2017! 
http://www.savingmesaynak.com/get-involved/

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"Saving Mes Aynak" screening in Guwahati, India!

"Saving Mes Aynak has been invited to screen at the Film & Cultural Society of North East, an NGO based in Guwahati India, the fastest growing port city of India. 

The screening will be an opportunity to tell the story of Mes Aynak to about 60 students from 10 schools from the region - students who would be heritage and cultural leaders in their respective institutions. A local expert from Archaeological Survey of India will join the post screening discussion to contextualize the issue discussed in the film.

If you are in India, please spread the word and join us! We are so grateful for another opportunity to show the film to the Indian audience - especially the youth! Thank you!

Director Brent E. Huffman interviewed on CNBC about Trump's plans for Afghanistan

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Director Brent E. Huffman was interviewed on CNBS regarding Trump administration's position on Afghanistan as U.S. newly measures its stake in Afghanistan's natural resources.

According to the CNBC report, the U.S. has spent upwards of $700 billion on Afghanistan's war, and the Trump administration is hoping to recoup some of that via its vast mineral wealth.

Stephen Feinberg, the billionaire financier who owns the military contractor DynCorp International, is informally advising Trump on Afghanistan, according to a report in The New York Times, which said the company may potentially play a role in safeguarding American mining operations. "We have no expectation of supporting commercial mining programs, but continue to work at the direction of the U.S. government," a DynCorp representative told CNBC.

The article introduces Saving Mes Aynak to explain the ongoing history of foreign countries, such as the U.S., Germany, and China, bargaining and claiming stakes in Afghanistan's natural resources. 

On Trump administration's possible interest in mining Afghanistan's natural resources, Director Brent E. Huffman commented, "American investment could potentially be worse" to CNBC.

He added that money from the sale of the mining rights could "solely benefit a very small number of corrupt officials," a legitimate fear given Afghanistan's checkered history with what the Brookings Institution recently called "predatory crime and corruption," as evidenced by the interviews and research shown in Saving Mes Aynak.

As of now, the mining of Saving Mes Aynak is still on hold. The Taliban had temporarily shown willingness to cooperate with the mining, but now, CNBC reports, the Trump administration may find the Taliban less than willing to be a partner in stabilizing the country.

The group has urged U.S. forces to leave Afghanistan, and asked Trump not to "hand over the Afghan issue to warmongering generals" as the president weighs a new strategy. On August 15, the Taliban wrote in an open letter that Trump must "understand the realities as a responsible president of the United States, and then make decisions based upon them." 

Despite the concerning report, Saving Mes Aynak team remains firm in our belief that Mes Aynak should remain a protected heritage site to be permanently preserved and studied for the advancement Afghanistan's cultural assets. 

Saving Mes Aynak returns to Italy for Rassegna International Film Festival!

Saving Mes Aynak returns to Italy after the Life After Oil Film Festival, where the film won the award for Best Feature Documentary. This time, Saving Mes Aynak will be screening at Rassegna, at the International Archaeological Film Festival of Rassegna. We are excited for this opportunity to show the film again to the community that show great appreciation for cultural heritage!  

Saving Mes Aynak screening to the youth of India!

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Saving Mes Aynak will be screening at the World Environmental Film Festival in Hyderabad, India. Hyderabad is the capital of southern India's Telangana state. It is one of major tech cities in India. Through this Festival, Saving Mes Aynak will be screened to high school and college students throughout the city, provoking awareness and conversations about international preservation issues. Stay tuned!

June 3-9, 2017 | Hyderabad, India

This week: SMA plays in Stockach, Germany for Afghan refugees

Pic: Front page of the Refugee Help site of Stockach: https://helferkreis-stockach.de/

Pic: Front page of the Refugee Help site of Stockach: https://helferkreis-stockach.de/

"Saving Mes Aynak" is screening to the townspeople of Stockach on May 26th. Stockach is near Lake Constance, south of Germany, not far from the Swiss border. It is a small town of 10,000 residents and a host to various refugees from the Middle East, including the two Afghan refugees who will be attending and speaking at the screening about their experiences. 

The screening was organized by Charlotte Blank, who volunteered her time and efforts to translate "Saving Mes Aynak" into German. Through her fellow volunteers who teach German to Afghan refugees in Stockach, Charlotte managed to organize this meaningful occasion for the Stockach community to share their stories through stories of Mes Aynak. 

Supporter-organized screenings like this makes the Saving Mes Aynak team see the engine behind our work. In 2017, we seek more opportunities than ever to show "Saving Mes Aynak" to Afghan citizens resettled across the globe!

 

Evangelical Community House, Tuttlingerstr. 2, Stockach, 78333 Germany

Friday, 26 May, 19:30 - 21:00

Saving Mes Aynak Named CINE Golden Eagle Finalist!

Saving Mes Aynak is named CINE Golden Eagle Finalist in the category of Nonfiction Content: Feature – Current Affairs or Investigations. Other honorees include POV's Hooligan Sparrow and The Return, Al Jazeera Media Network's The Poacher's Pipeline, and EPIX's original documentary series America Divided. We are grateful for this honor and congratulations to all finalists!

Director Brent E. Huffman to speak at a UChicago collegium

Director Brent E. Huffman will be a panelist at the Neubauer Collegium for Culture and Society on May 3, this Wednesday. Themed "Antiquities as Global Contraband: What Do We Know, and What Can We Do? - Lessons from Afghanistan", the Wednesday's panel will include experts from the Oriental Institute and Department of Anthropology at DePaul University, along with Director Huffman. Director Brent E. Huffman will speak on “Mes Aynak: Past, Present, and Future of an Ancient Buddhist City in Afghanistan.” We are looking for an opportunity to share findings from Mes Aynak and its meaningful recent news with various scholars!

Former General Manager of MCC Fired from the Party

Shen Heting of MCC meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on October 18, 2012. Photo: Handout

Shen Heting of MCC meets Afghan President Hamid Karzai at the Presidential Palace in Kabul on October 18, 2012. Photo: Handout

Shen Heting, the former general manager of the China Metallurgical Group Corp (MCC), a state-owned Chinese company, is expelled from the Community Party for corruption, South China Morning Post reports. 

Shen held the position of party general secretary of MCC when the Mes Aynak deal was sealed in 2007. At the time, the 3-billion-dollar deal was the biggest foreign investment for the Chinese government. Details of his corruption is not revealed, but the expel means political death sentence for the state-owned company manager.

It's been a decade since the mining deal of Mes Aynak, yet the demolition process has yet to begin, due to security problems of Afghanistan and the ever-delaying negotiation process to revisit contract terms of the mining deal. Local residents, archaeologists and environmentalists worldwide, as the supporters of Mes Aynak know, contributed significantly to delaying the mining and allowing time to unearth invaluable artifacts from Mes Aynak to be documented and preserved at the National Museum of Kabul

We will have to watch further to see if this new development will affect Mes Aynak in any way. Thank you so much for your continued support of Mes Aynak.

Saving Mes Aynak at UC Berkeley!

Saving Mes Aynak is coming to the UC Berkeley campus for a screening with Near Eastern StudiesCenter for Middle Eastern StudiesCenter for Buddhist Studies, and Institute for South Asia Studies. Director Brent E. Huffman will attend in person, and Sanjyot Mehendale, from Near Eastern Studies will moderate the post-screening discussion. This is a nice comeback to the Bay Area since the San Francisco Green Film Festival last spring. Invite your Bay Area friends!

Ancient, near-pristine Buddha from Mes Aynak revealed at Kabul Museum

A 2012 excavation from Mes Aynak has been spectacularly restored by a team of French, Italian, and Afghan workers, and now unveiled at the Kabul National Museum.

The statue is a fruit of assiduous work by archaeologists on the site of Mes Aynak and a rare rescue from relentless looters, who left many of Mes Aynak's Buddha statues headless. The colors of the statue is still vibrant and reveals Greek influence brought by Alexander the Great around 330 BC. Details of the face, the black curls of the Buddha's bun, its pink cheeks and deep blue eyes point to a "truly sophisticated technique," of Mes Aynak craftsmen of the time, says Ermano Carbonara, an Italian expert who worked on the restoration.

It's great to hear that restored works from Mes Aynak continue to go on display for the public at the National Museum. However, Kabul and Mes Aynak are hardly safe from security threats, as shown in this month's horrific news of the attack of Kabul Hospital. Continued and substantial support and attention from within the country and from the international community is as critical as ever. 

International screenings of Saving Mes Aynak, Spring 2017!

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Saving Mes Aynak makes its round around the world this spring! The film heads to Stockholm, Sweden for Afghan Documentary Film Festival later in March through April. Saving Mes Aynak screens in Denmark as well at the Danish Film Institute/Cinematheque on April 21. 

It's also our great pleasure to announce that Saving Mes Aynak will screen at the prestigious Art-Law Center of University of Geneva as part of a class with Prof. Renold, an attorney-at-law in the area of cultural heritage law and the director of the Center. We are excited to introduce Mes Aynak to the promising art law students at University of Geneva!

Saving Mes Aynak will be at Verde Valley Archaeology Center for the International Archaeology Film Festival in Camp Verde, AZ this week. The film is making its round across the U.S., next to the Buddhist Sitting Group at Emerson Unitarian Universalist Congregation in Georgia on April 1st.  Director Brent E. Huffman will attend a campus-wide screening at UC Berkeley in person on April 19. On April 23, Saving Mes Aynak will screen at Midwest Buddhist Temple, then at the American Institute of Afghan Studies at Boston University. In June, Saving Mes Aynak will be at UCLA for a screening with Fowler Museum.

We hope that Saving Mes Aynak continues to engage audiences around the world in meaningful ways!

A Successful Screening at University of Chicago!

Saving Mes Aynak had a successful screening at the University of Chicago for a class called "Cultural Heritage and Cultural Diplomacy" with Professor Larry Rothfield, the co-founder of the Cultural Policy Center at University of Chicago. One of the attendees of the screening, in fact, purchased Save Mes Aynak T-shirts from our website to distribute at the screening. It's lovely to see supporters of Mes Aynak in a group!

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