Syrian publishers in exile bring Arab culture to new homes

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Having worked in journalism and culture at home, she enjoys the freedom to publish in Canada. It provides books of all kinds without restrictions.

In a Zoom interview, Hadaq told Al-Fanar Media that she founded her publishing house through her own efforts and is not generating a profit yet. It is currently seeking support from international institutions and establishing partnerships with European bookstores.

“I would like to prove that as a refugee I am not dependent on my host country,” Hadaq said.

On the regime’s “wanted list”

Hadaq graduated in media from the University of Damascus. She was forced to leave Syria in December 2011 after discovering that she was on the Syrian authorities’ “wanted list” for her involvement in civil protests that preceded the war.

She moved to Ghana, where her father works. In Ghana, she had to wait about eight years for her asylum case before she and her daughter moved to Canada in February 2020. Over the years, she had hoped to return to Syria, but that hope faded as the crisis drags on, she said.

Within a year of launching the Ishtar House for Culture and the Arts, Hadaq participated in international book fairs and managed to deliver approximately 5,000 books to Arab readers in Canada.

It has also concluded agreements to publish the works of four Arab authors in Canada and the United States this year. In November, the house entered into a partnership with the Toronto Public Library to supply it with Arabic books.

However, the publishing house faces several challenges. These include high shipping prices, taxes, and the lack of a head office. In addition, the restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic limit its ability to organize cultural events.

A positive impact

Samer Al-Kadri, the founder of an Arabic publishing house in the Netherlands, agrees with Hadaq about the material difficulties faced by refugees trying to maintain cultural projects in exile.

“It’s almost impossible to turn them into a profit-maker as a business venture, due to high printing costs, taxes and salaries,” he said.

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