Afghanistan’s cinemas have long been considered off-limits for women, even though there’s no official policy banning women from enjoying an afternoon at the theater.
The Galaxy Family Miniplex is a tidy and modern theatre in the heart of Kabul but its most important feature is its audience members. “This is really something quite radical in Afghanistan, to build a cinema for women,” 34-year-old Abu Bakar Gharzai, who opened the Galaxy Family Miniplex in March of last year, tells Maija Liuhto.
“Here you see women coming in often without a mahram [an unmarriageable family member, which for women can also be an escort] and you feel free,” 29-year-old Rohina Haroon told Broadly.
Cinemas in Afghanistan were not always the exclusive province of men. “But once civil war broke out and Islamic resistance fighters took over in the 90s, cinemas lost business and “when the Taliban seized power in 1996, films, television, and most types of music were banned,” says Liuhto, “movie theaters were forced out of business.”
Many women today do not go to the theatre because they worry that there will be too many boys and men and they will be harassed. The Galaxy Family Miniplex offers women a chance to enjoy a film safely and comfortably in the company of other women. Tickets, Liuhto notes, are almost five times more expensive, and men can still attend showings—though they can only do so as part of a family, or if there are no women present.”