Iran has closed the top movie festival in the world and said it would not return.
In a statement posted on its official news agency, Iran’s official IRNA news agency said Saturday the festival would be closed on Tuesday due to a pandemic, which affected about 3,500 cinemas in Iran.
The film festival, which was founded in 2015 by Iran’s former president, Hassan Rouhani, was one of the few festivals open in the country this year.
It was shut by the government in March after it imposed a series of curbs on foreign visitors and restrictions on the availability of films, according to Iranian news agency IRNA.
“The festival’s organizers have decided to suspend operations due to the pandemic and the government’s decision to close it,” the statement said.
The festival was closed due to an inability to pay for equipment and travel expenses, the statement added.
The Iranian government had previously said that the festival had received a $500,000 ($934,000) donation from a Saudi-based foundation.
Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Friday that the decision to shut down the festival was in accordance with Islamic law, IRNA said.
Iran has the second-highest number of pandemic cases per capita in the Middle East after Afghanistan.
Iranian health officials estimate that roughly 6,000 people died and 4,500 were sickened in the pandemics last year.
The outbreak of the pandas coronavirus is believed to have spread to Iran, which has one of Iran’s highest rates of coronaviruses.