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.
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.