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In an act of solidarity with its UNESCO World Book Capital peer, Beirut, Sharjah has announced an emergency relief fund for Lebanese publishers affected by the tragic blast in Port Beirut in early August.
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 huge losses they have suffered in the aftermath of this tragedy and bounce back into business.
To this end, SWBC Office has designed a support fund of AED 200,000 split into two grants. The first grant has been directed towards 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 the bookmakers in one of the oldest book fairs in the Arab world.
The second grant has been set aside for Lebanese publishers who have suffered great losses due to a dip in their sales exacerbated by the cancellation or postponement of Arab book fairs and exhibitions. The Sharjah Book Authority will be forming a committee, which will 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 at [email protected]
SBA has also announced that its subsidiary, the 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. Interested applicants can get in touch with SPCFZ by writing to [email protected]
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.
Sheikha Bodour bint Sultan Al Qasimi, Vice President of the International Publishers Association (IPA) and Head of the Advisory Committee of Sharjah World Book Capital (SWBC), said: “Supporting the Arab world’s publishing sector is one of our top priorities at SWBCO and a pillar on which the celebrations of the title began on. Publishers are the core of the book industry, and providing support will reflect positively on the cultural movement and help attract more investment into the cultural sector locally and internationally.
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. 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.”
For his part, Ahmed bin Rakkad Al Ameri, Chairman of SBA, pointed out that the emirate of Sharjah has never wavered from its role as an incubator for culture, intellectuals, and a supporter of humanitarian and cultural issues. He stressed that the support for the Lebanese publishing sector reflected the vision of His Highness Sheikh Dr. Sultan bin Muhammad Al Qasimi, Supreme Council Member and Ruler of Sharjah, to nurture the Arab cultural and creative movement by ensuring its continuity under any circumstances.
Ahmed 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.”
These grants for Lebanese publishers coming out of Sharjah reaffirm the importance of preserving culture and allowing knowledge to play its role in raising educated and empowered generations. The emirate’s support to Lebanese publishers in their hour of need will play an enduring role in bringing the industry back to health and offer the impetus local publishers need to continue having a positive impact on the future of the Lebanese cultural scene.