This is Tripoli

Last week, Tripoli was a war zone. Today, it is a city like any other.

Last week, Tripoli seemed a world apart from the rest of Lebanon. Today, some decided to bring it a bit closer to where it belongs, back to rest of Lebanon…

It is hard to believe that one week ago, Tripoli witnessed one of the deadliest so-called rounds of fighting it had seen in recent months. But as it always has, Tripoli is slowly picking up the pieces of shattered glass and what is left of its hopes and dreams for the city, to get back on its feet and breathe life into its souks and streets. And in a humble gesture of solidarity, fellow Lebanese based in Beirut made their way to Tripoli yesterday, if only to tell their fellow Tripolitanians that they are not alone (coverage by Al Jadeed TV can be seen here – in Arabic).

Lebanese political organization For The Republic/ من أجل الجمهوريّة, which led its members, supporters and friends to Tripoli in solidarity, also took the opportunity to highlight the absurdity of cancelling upcoming parliamentary elections for the second consecutive time. As it recently explained in its complaint to the UN ‘s Human Rights Council, the occasional tensions erupting throughout the country, Tripoli in this case, are not reason enough for the government and parliament to postpone elections. On a day like yesterday, elections could have been held perfectly well, even in Tripoli. The so-called security concerns are just a cheap excuse for cancelling elections. “MPs want to extend just because they know nobody will elect them,” I overheard someone in the souks say. Then again, if the Lebanese people truly keep to all their hatred and curses addressed to their politicians in the past years and vote out the MPs that are the real source of most of their ills, I would be pleasantly delighted. Well, but that’s a different story altogether…

A couple of pictures from in and around its old souks give an idea of how things are on the ground, but do not tell Tripoli’s entire story, part of which is as unbelievable and predictable and complicated and contradictory and diverse as the city itself.  It is unbelievable as can be said of almost any other Lebanese city, that picks itself up and gets back to life time again, battle after battle. It is predictable because it isn’t hard to imagine what poverty, lack of opportunities and a decent life can lead people to do to their city, while it takes only a handful of such people, armed people, to bring an entire city to its knees. “Tripoli has been dead for almost three years,” said a shop owner in Tripoli’s souks. It is complicated to see symbols of Islamic extremism throughout the city (namely Daesh, aka Islamic State) visible as they never have been before, knowing that such presence will bring nothing to Tripoli but blood, tears and destruction. And it is a complicated reaction to local and regional events, whether it be the local confessional fighting, a proxy battle for the war in Syria, and arguably as a reaction to Hezballah’s actions there. It is contradictory to keep seeing pictures of local politicians plastered on Tripoli’s walls, when they have much to blame for the troubles, whether through their disregard to the city, in not doing enough to stop and prevent the fighting, and more importantly, in allegedly financing the fighting themselves as they please. “How tragic it is to have had 14 rounds of fighting when the Prime Minister [Nagib Mikati] himself was  from Tripoli. They have all done nothing for the city. They are behind all this fighting,” another shop owner noted. And it is diverse, and colorful, lively, beautiful and historical, if only there were more to appreciate it and understand the value of protecting it.

“Beirut in solidarity with Tripoli”
Tripoli, Lebanon
A fruit seller in Tripoli, Lebanon.
A building hit by the recent clashes in Tripoli near the entrance of the Old Souks.
The Daesh/Islamic State (IS) flag on the walls of Tripoli.
A man takes a peek out of his window, overlooking Tripoli’s Old Souks.
The Gold Souks.
To the Old Tripoli Souks.
One of many beautiful Tripoli minarets.
Caught in the crossfire…
And those who said they would work for Tripoli…

It is true that many of those who visited Tripoli in solidarity went back to the relative safety and security of Beirut. The people of Tripoli stayed behind and proudly so. There may be more rounds of fighting, and our solidarity may not be able to protect them from that either. But it goes to show that there are some, and hopefully many more, that are convinced that Tripoli is not alone, shouldn’t be left on its own, its voice is often hijacked by those who claim to work for it, and that more importantly, it is still not willing to give up the fight…

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