It’s strange how the recurring conflict in Tripoli, the second-largest city of Lebanon, has existed since the eighties, and yet no serious measures have ever been taken to end it. Instead, there have only been minor security actions. It’s as if each region is only concerned for itself, and not the whole nation.
It makes you question the unity of this country. If you live in Beirut, then you’re in the “world’s twentieth best city ahead of Paris, Venice and Barcelona” (voted by the Readers’ Choice Awards 2013). It’s the place where you can almost lead a normal life with slight chances of being blown up by a booby trap, by some random stray bullet (applauding a politician), or a rocket launched from nowhere-land. But, if you live in Tripoli, the odds are never in your favor.
You can try to lead a semi-normal life but it’s a different story. I’m not sure if you are familiar with the computer game ‘Call of Duty’, but if you are, then imagine it being your reality: People unable to sleep from the constant sound of riffle shots and rockets. They can’t stand too close to the windows, or walk in their streets without scanning every corner. Kids, carry guns instead of backpacks and their mothers mourn their losses. Fathers worry constantly about the bread they need to bring home and keeping their family safe.
It wasn’t always this dangerous.
Tripoli used to have an air of stillness where things would be relatively normal. There was a sort of unspoken code where people knew where it was safe and where it wasn’t and when. However, things have gotten worse since the escalation of the Syrian civil war. It is spilling over to Lebanon, where its effects have proven immune to the efforts of Lebanese authorities at dealing with it. It’s like whatever happens in any country, anywhere in this world, Lebanon has to somehow be part of it. It’s a shame that a city like Tripoli endures all of those struggles; it has so much potential, history, and beauty.
This bipolar attitude can be clearly seen through last Sunday’s events. Beirut was having a car-free day in Gemmayzeh Street where people were enjoying riding bikes in the city, walking, and discovering its lesser known features; whereas in Tripoli, more specifically, Jabal Mohsen and Bab el Tebbene, clashes erupted.
I’m not saying that solidarity doesn’t exist because it does. Civil society has acted numerous times to help rebuild houses in areas where conflicts occur. I’m also not saying that a part of the population ought to put their lives ‘on hold’ in solidarity with those who are suffering in another region. However, it is essential to let the suffering citizens know that we care. Instead of living in denial, we should face our reality and reach out to them. They should know that they are not alone and that we are doing our best to help out. We may not have the resources, but we do have the will to volunteer, to support them, and to pressure the authorities into taking more action. We’re all part of one community. Today, we can no longer pretend that we are unaffected by the suffering of others and that Tripoli is located in Timbuktu, Singapore or once upon a time in a land Far Far Away.
Marie-Line Rizk is a regional intern at the World Youth Alliance Middle East.