Qatar National Library (QNL) has partnered up with the International Alliance for the Protection of Heritage in Conflict Areas (ALIPH), UNESCO and other partners to help in the reconstruction of key cultural organisations and school libraries across Lebanon that were damaged by the explosion in Beirut’s port last year.
QNL will provide rehabilitation and restoration services of libraries while ALIPH will be providing complementary funding.
Both QNL and ALIPH support on-the-ground work implemented by the Prince Claus Fund, L’Œuvre d’Orient and Monumenta Orientalia, who will revive the Lebanese National Library, the Bibliothèque Orientale and several other cultural institutions.
“While we are still in mourning for the explosions that struck Beirut’s port a year ago and the resulting heavy human loss, it is imperative that we act as stewards of knowledge, in a spirit of solidarity and cooperation, to help Beirut rebuild its cultural capacity,” said Minister of State and President of QNL Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kawari.
QNL will also work in partnership with UNESCO Lebanon on projects for various local libraries. The project will contribute to the preservation and promotion of documentary heritage in the Arab world.
The venture will see the reopening of large and small cultural institutions alike while aiding them in the resumption of services during the rehabilitation phase. QNL will offer professional support and preservation materials, as well as post-disaster training and capacity-building programmes to libraries and relevant organisations nationwide.
QNL’s online resources will also be made available to students at two educational institutions in Beirut, Saint Joseph University and Saint George University.
As part of the project, QNL will support partners’ renovation efforts through revamping school libraries, supporting repairs at important heritage buildings, and the provision of book-cleaning machines to remove dust and debris resulting from the Beirut blast last year, which ravaged through the city, causing mass destruction and claiming the lives of 200 people.
2020 Beirut port explosion
Meanwhile, a report released by Human Rights Watch [HRW] on Tuesday detailed the involvement of several Lebanese officials in storing the ammonium nitrate at the Beirut Port, whom it said accepted all risks.
Titled “They Killed Us from the Inside”, the report said Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab, Director General of State Security Tony Saliba and other former ministers are wanted for questioning by judge Bitar for failing to protect the public.
“Evidence strongly suggests that some government officials foresaw the death that the ammonium nitrate’s presence in the port could result in and tacitly accepted the risk of the deaths occurring,” the report said.
The explosives were stored after Russian ship, the Rhosus, which in 2013 was carrying the chemicals to Mozambique, stopped off at Beirut port after facing financial difficulties.
At the time, Lebanese officials authorised the unloading of the toxic material at the port, with HRW noting that there are questions on whether the shipment was intended for Mozambique or Beirut itself.
The rights group called on the United Nations Human Rights Council to investigate the blast and on foreign governments to impose human rights and corruption sanctions on Lebanese officials.
The report came following delayed investigations by Lebanese officials led by Judge Tarek Bitar. So far, politicians and senior security officials have not been subjected to questioning even one year after the deadly blast. This is despite the emergence of documents proving that the explosive material was green-lighted as far back as 2013.
“Year after year, nothing was done to eliminate the threat,” Lama Fakih, crisis and conflict director at HRW, said at a press conference on Tuesday as the group presented its new report.
The rights group said officials have obstructed investigations and showed a “lack of respect for fair trial standards”, with people in Lebanon calling for lifting the immunity on politicians and security officials.
On Friday, Aoun claimed he was ready to testify and suggested no one was above the law.