Kabul Cinema Silenced Under Taliban Regime, Uncertain Future

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Activities at the Ariana Cinema Hall, which opened in the 1960s in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, have stalled.

Kabul: Activities at the Ariana Cinema Hall, which opened in the 1960s in Kabul, the capital of Afghanistan, have stalled. For decades this historic movie theater has entertained Afghans and witnessed Afghanistan’s wars, hopes and cultural changes. After the arrival of the Taliban, the posters for Bollywood movies and American action movies have been removed and the doors are closed. The Taliban ordered the closure of Ariana and other theaters after retaking power 3 months ago.

Ariana Cinema Hall one of the 4 cinemas in the capital Kabul

The Taliban rulers say they have not yet decided whether to allow films to be shown in Afghanistan. Ariana, like the rest of the country, is strangely confused about what the Taliban will rule out. About 20 movie theater employees still visit. He makes his presence felt in the hope of receiving his salary. The historic Ariana Cinema Hall is one of 4 cinemas in the capital Kabul. It is controlled by the Kabul Municipality, so its employees are government employees and work on the ‘payroll’.

Kabul Cinema, Kabul Taliban Cinema, Taliban Cinema, Kabul Cinema Asita Ferdous

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Ariana remained abandoned for years as the Taliban led the Mujahideen and took control of Kabul in 1996.

Government employees ordered to stay away from workplaces
Ariana’s director, Asita Firdous (26), cannot enter the movie theater either. Firdous was the first female officer appointed to the position. The Taliban have ordered government employees to stay away from their workplaces so that they cannot mix with the men until they can determine if they will be allowed to work. Firdous is part of a generation of young Afghans since 2001 who are determined to make more room for women’s rights. The Taliban regime has dashed their hopes.

‘I can no longer participate in film activities’
Firdous said: ‘I spend my time drawing, drawing just to pass the time. I can no longer participate in film-related activities. During their previous rule in power from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban prohibited women from working or going to school. The Taliban also banned music and other arts, including movies and cinema. This time, the Taliban say they have changed amid international pressure, but are vague about what they will or will not do. It has blocked the livelihoods and livelihoods of many Afghans.

Kabul Cinema, Kabul Taliban Cinema, Taliban Cinema, Kabul Cinema Asita Ferdous

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The historic Ariana Cinema Hall is one of 4 cinemas in the capital Kabul.

Ariana suffered heavy losses in bombings and shootings.
Ariana Cinema Hall opened in 1963. Kabul resident Jiba Niazai recalled the experiences of visiting Ariana during the Soviet-backed regime of President Najibullah in the late 1980s, when there were more than 30 theaters across the country. After the marriage, she had come to Kabul from a village to live with her husband. Niazai’s husband works in the finance ministry. They used to go to the movies together when they were on vacation, but now Niajai lives alone at home all day. Ariana was badly damaged, along with much of the surrounding area, in the repeated bombings and shootings of previous years.

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Ariana opened after the American occupation in 2001.
Ariana remained abandoned for years while the Taliban led the Mujahideen and took control of Kabul in 1996. All remaining cinemas around Kabul were closed. Ariana was opened after the American occupation in 2001. The French government helped rebuild the movie theater in 2004. Abdul Malik Waheedi, in charge of the entries in Ariana, said that the Indian films, action films of the American actor Jean-Claude Van Damme, were always the biggest attraction. As Afghanistan’s domestic film industry resumed, Ariana played these types of films as well.

Kabul Cinema, Kabul Taliban Cinema, Taliban Cinema, Kabul Cinema Asita Ferdous

Image source: AP

Ariana’s director, Asita Firdous (26), cannot enter the movie theater either.

‘There used to be 3 shows in a day, which ended in the middle of the afternoon’
Waheedi recounted that there used to be 3 shows in a day, which ended in the middle of the afternoon. Firdous had been named Ariana’s director just a year earlier. Previously, she headed the Kabul Municipality Gender Equality Division, where she worked to achieve equal pay for female employees and establish women as senior officers in the capital district police departments. The male employees were shocked when it came to Ariana. Firdous said: “However, there was a lot of cooperation and they did a good job with me.”

‘Ariana employees can be transferred’
In March 2021, Ariana Cinema Hall hosted an Afghan film festival attended by Afghan actors. Male workers have received a portion of their salary since the Taliban came to power. Firdous said he has not received any salary. Inanullah Amani, director general of the cultural department of the Kabul municipality, said that if the Taliban ban the films, Ariana’s employees could be transferred or fired. Ariana’s employees said they didn’t know what the Taliban would decide, but no one expected them to allow the movies.

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