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Fighting in Tripoli leaves both sides sorry
The National ^ | May 22. 2009 | Mitchell Prothero

Posted on 05/21/2009 7:17:38 PM PDT by forkinsocket

TRIPOLI // Abu Ahmad looks around his deserted machine shop in the impoverished Tripoli neighbourhood of Beb al Tibani and blames last summer’s sectarian violence between the Sunni and Allawite sects for the poor business.

“A year later and we have seen our business fall almost 90 per cent because of the fighting last summer,” he said. “We see those incidents as a mistake and so do many of the Allawite up the mountain, for they lost their jobs as well.”

Abu Ahmad admits that he is no innocent victim of last year’s fighting, which killed dozens of people in the aftermath of the sectarian violence that swept Lebanon last spring and continued most of the summer in the country’s second largest city. He led a militia of his own against his neighbours just a few hundred meters away.

“We have hated the Syrians since 1985 when they came into Tripoli and killed more than 1,200 civilians in the fighting with the [Palestinian Liberation Organisation, then based outside Tripoli],” he remembers. “I worked for the Red Cross then and I saw the unarmed women and children the Syrian Army and their allies here murdered. We cannot forgive this, so last summer we defended our homes.”

As Lebanon prepares for the bitterly contested parliamentary elections scheduled for June 7, observers fear the tight race and sectarian campaigning by both sides could return this tiny country to the bloodshed of last summer when Sunni supporters of the government clashed throughout the country with militias of Shiite and Allawite led by the militant group Hizbollah.

Tripoli was the scene of much of the violence, even if the fighting between the adjacent neighbourhoods – Sunnis in Beb al Tibani and Allawite in Jabal al Mousen – was often overlooked because of higher profile clashes in Beirut. One local political figure explains that Tripoli’s extreme economic deprivation and the long-standing hatred between the two communities leave it highly vulnerable to violent outbursts.

“Jabal al Mousen and Beb al Tibani are like anything else in the Middle East, in that it doesn’t make sense at all,” said Mousbah al Ahdab, a Tripoli MP. “Since 1985, when the Syrians occupied Tripoli their allies, the Allawites, massacred many people from Beb al Tibani, and since then [Syria has] used the method divide and conquer. Since then the people of both areas hate each other and what happened last year and [is] still happening are revenge [attacks] agitated by some local leaders. And it’s always the families the people who are sinking in poverty in both areas that suffer the most and starve.”

The Lebanese Army now keeps the two sides apart by putting its soldiers in the line of fire between the two neighbourhoods, which are separated by the ironically named “Syria Street”, but the militants who took to the streets last summer now say the economic costs of the fighting were too much for the poorest community in Lebanon to bear.

“We have lost most of our businesses and so have the Syrians,” Abu Ahmad said, as his grimy workmen smoke cigarettes and drink bitter coffee in the dark workshop. Abu Ahmad’s employees all volunteered to fight last summer, but none show any appetite for violence today.

“There is no economy in here now and we are the poorest area in the world,” said Moustapha Zoubi, 42. “The only thing people live on is some vegetables that they sell and some are related to political groups where they get small amounts of money out of them, but nothing much, maybe US$100 (Dh367) per month.”

Mr Zoubi said the fallout from the fighting hurt the people of Jabal at least as badly as the Sunnis in Beb al Tibani because of the nature of Tripoli’s economy.

“The Allawites were more affected because most of them own shops in Beb al Tibani and many of them go down here to work, so last summer when the war was on, none of them could come down, plus the men from Tibani were raging about what the Allawites and Hizbollah had done [in Beirut last May] so they burnt every single shop, store and business that was owned by an Allawite here in Tibani. Yes, economically they lost a lot. We did too, because people who come from Tripoli or Akkar to shop in Tibani were afraid, and even after the clashes were over people are still hesitating to come.”

That take on the situation means, according to Mr Zoubi, that hardly anyone can afford to fight and that the current economy relies on the elections, where young men are often hired to place political posters around the city.

“I have no job and neither do the Syrians,” said Mazen, an unemployed labourer who makes money by putting up posters for both the majority and opposition. “People all thought that if we fought the Syrians, we would be rewarded by our Sunni leaders,” he adds. “But now we never see them except on posters. Why don’t they help us with the jobs we lost while fighting for them? That’s why I will put up posters from both sides as long as they pay.”

TOPICS: Foreign Affairs
KEYWORDS: alawites; lebanon; sunnis; syria; tripoli
1 posted on 05/21/2009 7:17:39 PM PDT by forkinsocket
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To: forkinsocket

Wherever there are muslims you will find the destruction of culture and degradation of civilization.

Just look at the USA since the era of King Obama began.

2 posted on 05/21/2009 7:46:05 PM PDT by Iron Munro (Suppose you were a clueless idiot, and suppose you were Barack Obama; but I repeat myself)
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To: forkinsocket
...last summer’s sectarian violence between the Sunni and Allawite sects...

I'm pulling for the Home Team! Go All Whites!

3 posted on 05/21/2009 8:22:44 PM PDT by Boiler Plate ("Why be difficult, when with just a little more work, you can be impossible" Mom)
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