A Backlash in Tripoli

Civil campaigners will be staging a peaceful demonstration today against the presence of weapons in Tripoli. But this is just one part of the story.


Posters from the “Tripoli Arms free” Facebook page

If I were in Lebanon I would surely join the demonstration for a Tripoli free of arms. If you are in Lebanon, you too should try to join. But there’s an important point that needs to be made: This is very much a middle-class and elite backlash against what they claim is being done by “outsiders” to their city. Unfortunately things are a bit more complicated than that.

The two Tripolis

The people going to that demonstration, my family, my friends, my neighbors, my facebook buddies, these are not the people from Tebbané who are proudly declaring on TV that they’re shooting at the dastardly Allawis. These are not the Islamists who are blocking the roads and burning tires demanding the release of Shadi el Mawlawi. Look at the faces in the ads above. There are no Islamists with beards or veiled women. These are lawyers, teachers, doctors and businessmen, men and women whose lives are being interrupted by the shooting.

Tripoli’s middle classes and elite are geographically separated from the arm-wielding poor and the Islamists, but unlike in Beirut where clashes in Tarik el Jdidé hardly affect life in the other parts of the city, the fights in Tripoli are greatly inconveniencing the rest of its population.

This is becoming a problem for politicians who until recently managed to speak the language of both the Islamist poor on one hand and the elite on the other.  But now, because of the fights, MPs like Abulabed Kabbara whose combattive sectarianism still appeals to the poor are starting to lose their electoral standing with the well heeled. On the other side, “moderates” like Mikati are starting to appeal to the elite but are coming across as impotent to the Sunni warriors and the poor.

The Problem is within Tripoli

What many in the elite don’t realize is that the others are also “the people of Tripoli”. They also vote and they are almost as numerous. Only unlike the middle class, they want arms, they want to “give it to the Shiaas” and they want their Shariaa . These people are not planning to join the “Tripoli free of arms” demonstration anytime soon.

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  • Ali

    Mazbout, tayeb how can we engage those people, what do you suggest ?
    I believe this movement is important because the civil society in Tripoli needs to appear on the media.
    All our lebanese channels have contributed in a way or another to the rise of salafists, they are their main focus in the city.

    People have to see that there are lots of people in this Tripoli who are sick of waking up to the sound of gun fights.

    We can’t rely on our politicians, they are all playing the war game, they think it’s the right moment for a victory.

    Our first step is to appear to the media,the next is to try to enlighten the people on the front lines to the absurdity and meaninglessness of their engagement in fights that will only deteriorate their situation.

    • Mustapha

      good luck buddy, you’re fighting the good fight, I wish I was there too, I would have joined..

      My post is aimed at those who naively believe that everybody in tripoli thinks the same.

  • http://3asseh.tumblr.com 3asseh

    Very marxist analysis ;-)

  • EJE

    May be marxist Mo, but if so, then despite being so it is accurate from where I stand. Very good point you put forward as to the divide within what may be perceived from the outside as one society. It is a sad situation, especially in that it may, as you mentioned, have an impact on the electoral success of certain otherwise moderate politicians.
    Do you think the same analysis applies to the other party in this “party”, i.e. the shiaa/alawite side? My hunch is that it does not and if it does it is to a much lesser extent, i.e. the combative side is either stronger or more vocal/oppressive. I cannot speak with certainty but, from what it looks like to those looking objectively onto the situation, the moderate inclinations look very one sided. Is this accurate?

    • Mustapha

      Well, I’m sure the allawis also have diversity, but by the virtue of being a minority in an overwhelmingly Sunni city, I’m pretty sure they’re unified because they’re convinced that their very survival is at stake..

      The Sunnis in Lebanon never had survival concerns as a group, which explains their fragmentation..

      • Anonymous

        You’re right on both accounts; your comment, and trying to show everyone that in Tripoli, is not all Islamists, but it’s not all moderates as well…

        I everyone agrees to stop the violence, for the sake of the city of nothing else.

  • Antidisestablishmentarianism

    I am sorry to be pedantic here, again, but you don’t need to put two As in Sharia. The English loan word is Sharia, and if you want to follow phonetic transliteration rules, then it is Shari’a. the double aa is for hamza.

    With regard to the issue in question, i have two remarks if I may:

    1- The impoverished are being given weapons by someone else. Who can afford to buy weapons when they can barely put food on the table? So the question is, who is doing that and to what end

    2- The Alawis are hostages to a thuggish militia led by Rifat Eid. maybe they support him, maybe they don’t, but that militia needs to be disarmed and the army needs to maintain permanent presence in jabal mohsen to protect the alawis if that is their fear, of being overwhelmed by sunnis holding a grudge from the civil war. of course, babl el tebbaneh should also be disarmed and tripoli should not be a hub for arms and fighters smuggling to Syria, which is also at the heart of this issue. support for syria should remain civil and legal, money, protests, things like that, not weaponry and mobilization under islamic slogans, that is always a dangerous game that backfires

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