Tripoli: A Tale of Three Cities
The word Tripoli means “three cities”, which is a fitting name for a city that today houses three distinct cultures (“cities”), which are in a state of constant flux and violent interaction. Today we’ll meet the three cities that comprise today’s Tripoli and see how they interact together.
Marathon Tripoli is proudly Lebanese. It is made of the bourgeois, the well educated and the nationalist. It is named so because its citizens believe that organizing a marathon is an indication of civilization and a rejection of violence. Marathon Tripoli residents are predominantly Sunnis but welcome other sects and love to talk about how much they all love each other. They hang out on Ashir el Dayeh street cafés where they declare on national TV that they love life just like the rest of the Lebanese.
When Marathon Tripoli citizens protests, they like to protest next to Brunch, a fancy café where other Marathon tripoli citizens hang out… They are all over facebook, creating groups like We Love Tripoli, and on Twitter protesting the fact that the rest of the Lebanese don’t care about them and aren’t giving their suffering enough attention. Citizens of Marathon Tripoli also like to write blog posts in English where they argue that their city is actually made of three cities.
Tarablos al Sham
Tarablos al Sham, (loosely translated as “Tripoli of Greater Syria”), is made of Sunnis who never accepted Lebanon as a final political entity. Citizens of Tarablos al Sham believe that Tripoli is part of a Sunni “umma” that spans the Arabian peninsula and north Africa. They are generally poor and under-educated, and they see foreign language education as a form of deviation from the true knowledge of Arabic and the history of Islam.
The citizens of Tarablos al Sham reserve their biggest anger and disdain for the Shiaas and Alawis, partly because they see them as “deviants” and partly because they have been relentlessly killing their brothers in the Umma in Syria. This is why they consider it their religious duty to fight them, whether it means sending fighters to Syria or fighting them in Jabal Mohsen.
( Update: For clarifications on the origins of the phrase Tarablos al Sham, please read Posh’s comment in the comments section)
Tarablos al Assad
There are many Alawis who live in Marathon Tripoli, but the majority of them are citizens of Assad Country. The leadership of Tarablos al Assad (Tripoli of Assad) has successfully convinced Alawis that all the citizens of Tripoli are secretly Tarablos al Sham fanatics, and that unless the Alawis of Jabal Mohsen stick together under the protection of the Assad Family and their ruthless ways, their very existence will be at stake. Tarablos al Assad residents are camera shy and they generally stay quiet on the social media.
The interplay between these three Tripolis is subtle. Marathon tripoli would never condone any form of ethnic cleansing against the Alawis, but its citizens are sympathetic to the fighters of Tarablos al Sham and consider Tarablos al Assad to be the villains in this war. The citizens of Marathon Tripoli are also mostly in denial that the bearded, black-flag-waving islamists of Tarablos al Sham are “real” Tripolitanians and they insist that they are foreign elements.
The political leaders of Marathon Tripoli are supporting the fighters of Tarablos al Sham with money and weapons because they want to keep them under control and they want to ensure the fighting doesn’t extend to their Tripoli. That doesn’t mean however that they support their vision of an eventual islamist state. Remember, these are capitalists who enjoy Lebanon’s pleasures and “usurious” banks.
Marathon Tripoli loves the Lebanese army, but Tarablos al Sham scorns it as an artificial construct that represents the authority of a state they don’t believe in.
Fighters of Tarablos al Sham overstate their influence and believe they are somehow living in the middle of a Muslim spring where the “artificial” borders will eventually melt and we will have a khilafa once again. They believe that citizens of Marathon Tripoli back their vision of Sunni pan-nationalism and they are in for a big eventual disappointments.
The biggest test for Marathon Tripoli, after all the fighting is done and the dust settles, is how it is planning to eventually integrate Tarablos al Sham and Tarablos al Assad under its vision of a prosperous city in a unified country called Lebanon.