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In Afghanistan war zone, a movie theater comes back to life

An old movie theater in Lashkar Gah, shuttered by years of Afghanistan wars and hard-line Islamic rule, will soon reopen to host poetry readings and movies again. A sign of the post-Taliban times?

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Lashkar Gah is typical of the conservative, war-battered towns of southern Afghanistan: few women on the streets, the constant drone of helicopters overhead, concrete blast barriers everywhere.

Yet here in the provincial capital of Helmand Province, where NATO forces just waged its biggest offensives against the Taliban in nine years, one structure near the town’s center stands as a testament to more normal times. Locals are reopening the Lashkar Gah Cinema Hall, the only movie theater in all of southern Afghanistan. For years it sat damaged by numerous wars and shuttered by Islamic extremism. Its resurrection is hoped to bring a rebirth of artistic expression in this restive corner of the country.

“In a place like Helmand, which is only known for fighting, we need these sorts of things,” says Nasima Niazi, a provincial lawmaker. “It gives a little hope to Helmandi people that there’s more to life than just war.”

Movies had been banned by the mujahedeen, hard-line Islamic guerrillas who fought the Soviets throughout the 1980s, and by the Taliban who took over afterward.

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