Beirut Lebanon blast
In this Aug. 6, 2020, file photo, a soldier stands at the devastated site of the explosion in the port of Beirut, Lebanon. Image Credit: AP

Sharjah: Sharjah has announced a Dh200,000 emergency relief fund for Lebanese publishers affected by the devastating blast in Port Beirut in August, as an act of solidarity with Beirut, which is Sharjah’s peer as a ‘UNESCO World Book Capital’.

The emergency relief fund has been rolled out by Sharjah in collaboration with the Sharjah World Book Capital Office 2019 (SWBC Office) and the Sharjah Book Authority (SBA), and will translate into both financial and in-kind assistance to help Lebanese publishers recover the losses they have suffered in the aftermath of the blast.

SWBC Office has designed a support fund of Dh200,000 split into two grants. The first grant is for aiding the hosting of the next edition of the ‘Beirut International Book Fair’. The grant aims to reduce the event’s logistical expenses to facilitate the participation of bookmakers in one of the oldest book fairs in the Arab world.

Committee for eligibility

The second grant has been set aside for Lebanese publishers who have suffered “great losses” due to a dip in their sales worsened by the cancellation or postponement of Arab book fairs and exhibitions. SBA will be forming a committee to assess the publishers’ eligibility for these grants and will get in touch with them directly. Lebanese publishers who want to avail this grant may contact the committee.

SBA has also announced that its subsidiary, Sharjah Publishing City Free Zone (SPCFZ), will offer Lebanese publishers interested in regional or global expansion exemption from setup fees for an entire year. Twenty furnished offices are also part of SBA’s support.

Restoring damaged libraries

Moreover, SWBC Office is restoring and renewing three public libraries managed by the Assabil Association, which were damaged in the Beirut explosion. This includes the internal and external restoration of the Mono Library; upgradation of equipment in Al Bashura and Al Jeitawi libraries; as well as the provision of institutional support to Assabil, a non-governmental organisation established in 1997 to promote public libraries in Lebanon that are free and open to all.

Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi, vice-president of the International Publishers Association and head of the advisory committee of SWBC, said: “The support provided to Lebanese publishers affected by the Beirut Port explosion is a continuation of efforts led by the SWBCO to help Arab and international publishers continue their operations and develop their products.

Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi,

Shaikha Bodour Bint Sultan Al Qasimi,

"The Lebanese publishing sector is considered one of the biggest and leading markets in the Middle East going through exceptional circumstance that requires cultural institutions and prominent figures to come together to overcome the challenges and transform them to new opportunities.”

Cultural bond

SBA chairman Ahmad Bin Rakkad Al Ameri said the support for the Lebanese publishing sector reflected the vision of His Highness Dr Shaikh Sultan Bin Mohammad Al Qasimi, Member of the Supreme Council and Ruler of Sharjah, to nurture the Arab cultural and creative movement by ensuring its continuity under any circumstances.

Ahmad Bin Rakkad Al Ameri

Ahmad Bin Rakkad Al Ameri

Al Ameri added: “What has impacted and hurt Lebanon hurt the entire Arab world. We always believed that Arab culture is a strong bond that brings us together. Based on that, and in cooperation with SWBCO, we were keen on supporting publishers and creatives in the Lebanese capital during this ordeal to enable them carry on — because we believe that creativity in all its forms is the foundation for advanced and humane societies.”