Last week, in reposes to a hard lockdown, imposed by the governments, the inhabitants of Tripoli took to the streets in protest. Their protest is simple: if they don’t work – they don’t eat that day. If the government wants people to stay at home, it should provide assistance to those who need it. The situation quickly spiralled out of control. Following the violence that occurred, every last Lebanese TV channel has been offering its views on Tripoli.
These views are rarely positive. They are often sympathetic and condescending at best, and laced with Islamophobia and Lebanese bigotry (Ta2ifiye) at worst.
Tripoli is not a hub for extremism. And while it is a poverty stricken city, it hasn’t always been that way. The city has become increasingly impoverished as a result of the government’s wilful neglect and intentional refusal to invest in one of the oldest gems on the Mediterranean. I’ll be devoting more time this month to researching the city of Tripoli and will write a couple researched pieces in the next two months.
I’d like to take this opportunity, however, to list a few facts about Tripoli that people may not be aware of:
- Tripoli is a religiously diverse city – not all its inhabitants are Muslims (although it shouldn’t be viewed negativity if it were as many Lebanese areas are religiously homogenous – I just want to highlight, that contrary to what people may believe, it’s not the case.) The city is home to many religious minorities, such as Alawites, Maronites, Greek Orthodox Christians (Lebanese fondly refer to as Roum) and Armenians.
- Tripoli has a rich history – much like the rest of Lebanon. It homes a Crusader Fortress, many Ottoman structures and mosques, old churches – not to mention the old Souk (that has been, sadly, recently burned).
- Tripoli has been, for years, portrayed inaccurately and negatively in the media. Sunni anger in Tripoli, although often fuelled by poverty and disenfranchisement, has been repeatedly and unfairly portrayed as a symptom of radicalisation. Many times I’ve heard people in the media refer to the city as ‘Kandahar’ or ‘Islamabad’ – a comment which is both racist and Islaomphobic on multiple levels. That is perhaps, why it is hard for many people to empathise with Tripolians, even when their suffering is the same. Similarly, that is why the army can act with absolute impunity there, with no accountability whatsoever.
It seems that the protesters of the 17th October Revolution are not buying the BS this time and have been showing support and solidarity to Tripoli. That is heartwarming and I hope it carries on into the future.