In Sight

This movie theater in Afghanistan is waiting to see if it can ever show movies again

After being embroiled in a war for nearly the last two decades, the Taliban took control of Afghanistan’s capital, Kabul, in a very short period of time over the summer. And with that, many of the freedoms that Afghans had grown accustomed to began to vanish.

Bram Janssen/AP

As this September Washington Post article notes, “The last time the Taliban ruled Afghanistan, morality police roamed the streets, implementing the group’s austere interpretation of Islamic law — with harsh restrictions on women, strictly enforced prayer times and even bans on kite-flying and chess. Nearly 20 years later, the Ministry for Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice is back.”

Bram Janssen/AP

Rahmatullah Ezati works in the projection room of the closed Ariana Cinema in Kabul.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Only a few months after the Taliban retook Kabul, many restrictions have returned. And it looks like more may be on the way. There is some uncertainty now as people are waiting to see how restrictive the Taliban will be. Women’s rights are already being curtailed.

Bram Janssen/AP

Kabul’s Ariana Cinema was closed during the Taliban’s previous rule over Kabul. According to this Washington Post article, it was attacked by a suicide bomber when it reopened in 2010. Associated Press photographer Bram Janssen recently visited the cinema, which has again been shuttered.

Bram Janssen/AP

Abdul Malik Wahidi, who sells tickets at Ariana Cinema, poses for a photograph in the ticketing office.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Wahidi browses through unsold tickets.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Abdul Fatah sits on his bed inside the Ariana Cinema. Fatah lives in the cinema, where he works as a security guard.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

A vase of fake roses stands inside the ticket office.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Asita Ferdous, the director of the Ariana Cinema, is not allowed to enter it. The cinema is owned by the city of Kabul, and the Taliban has ordered female government employees to stay away from their workplaces.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Janssen found that, although closed, its employees “still show up at work every day hoping they will eventually get paid, despite the Taliban’s orders to stop operating.” This includes people like Rahmatullah Ezati, who works in the projectionist room; Abdul Fatah, a security guard; Abdul Malik Wahidi, who sells movie tickets; and Gul Mohammed, who works as a host for the cinema.

Bram Janssen/AP

A staff member walks in the hallway.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Staff members inside the ticket office.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Empty seats inside Ariana Cinema.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

Rahmatullah Ezati looks out of the projection room.

Bram Janssen/AP

Bram Janssen/AP

For now, the Ariana is closed, and its employees wait to see if it will be able to reopen and continue to provide entertainment in Afghanistan’s capital. The odds for that seem slim right now.

Bram Janssen/AP

In Sight is The Washington Post’s photography blog for visual narrative. This platform showcases compelling and diverse imagery from staff members and freelance photographers, news agencies and archives. If you are interested in submitting a story to In Sight, please complete this form.

Bram Janssen/AP

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Photo editing and production by Kenneth Dickerman