Women's Rights |

Moviegoers welcome family-friendly cinema in Kabul

By Sulaiman


Customers stand in line for tickets March 24 at the family-oriented Galaxy Cinema in Kabul. [Sulaiman]

KABUL -- The Galaxy Family Cinema, situated in a modern shopping centre in Kabul, is catering to previously unserved audiences -- families and women unaccompanied by men.

On a recent day in March, about a year after the cinema first opened its doors, a number of families and women stand in line to buy tickets.

The sight of the customers inside the well-guarded theatre would be unremarkable in most countries, but is extraordinary for Afghanistan, where social norms mean an audience composed almost entirely of men in most cinemas.

At Galaxy, though, management bars men from attending without their families. One section is reserved for families.

Enthusiastic crowd

Inside the cozy theatre, which seats 70, a number of families, as well as young women there on their own, applaud enthusiastically when an Afghan film called "The Masked One" begins playing.

"In my opinion, it's the first time in the history of Afghanistan that we've had a small theatre for families," Zarifeh, 22, told Salaam Times with visible delight. "It's a great start for entertaining women."

"Historically, the tradition of allowing women to go to movie theatres was absent in Afghanistan," she said. "Fortunately, today, I see many families and women at Galaxy."

Family-friendly atmosphere

At Galaxy, unlike the average Afghan cinema, everything is done to make families comfortable, such as enforcing good behaviour. Families can spend time there without concerns about rowdiness from groups of young men.

Another contented moviegoer is Shabaneh, who found the cinema's address on Facebook.

"We women, as human beings equal to our male counterparts, have the right to go to entertaining places ... and to enjoy our lives," she told Salaam Times. "Going to movie theatres is not illegal for women. It's just ... customs that confine women to their homes."

A number of men who took their families to the cinema are also ready to break down the barriers that used to keep their wives and children at home.

"There was a time when it was considered shameful for a man to leave his house with his wife and family," Ahmed Rashed, who came to Galaxy with his wife and daughter, told Salaam Times. "Fortunately, such misconceptions are fading."

Preventing women from seeking leisure outside their homes "has no place in our religion", he said.

"During the Taliban era, women lost their most basic rights," Kabul women's rights activist Shakiba Samadi told Salaam Times. "Fortunately today, Afghan women are free to work and to go out."

A short escape from life's problems

The theatre's owners recognised the social need for such a place, said Samira Ahmed, manager of Galaxy's family-only seating section.

"Unfortunately, the number of recreational facilities where families can spend time together ... is very limited in Afghanistan," she told Salaam Times. "That's why we decided to provide families with such a service."

At Galaxy "families and women can watch movies ... and spend a short time away from their problems", she said.

After a few months in operation, the audience's tastes became clear, said Ahmed.

"Seventy percent of the customers are interested in Hollywood and Bollywood films," she said. "The other 30% want Afghan movies."

The theatre charges 300 AFN ($4.46) per ticket but gives special discounts to low-income and repeat customers, said Ahmed.

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