Tripoli’s Ex -fighters Meet for the First Time
Tripoli. A city in North Lebanon that has long been linked to conflict, armed fights and intemperance.
This reputation has a historic dimension in Tripoli; it dates back to the time of the Lebanese 1975-1990 Civil War. Yet, Tripoli was one of the few regions where violent conflicts persisted, more or less intensely, until 2014; in particular in two adjacent areas, Bab el-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, where the conflict can still erupt again any time.
In those two neighborhoods that are separated by political and religious differences the conflict has taken to the streets. Taking advantage of Tripoli’s concentrated poverty, politics and armed fights paid the bills, while the city paid the price.
After the end of the last round of fights in 2014, the impoverished inhabitants of both areas still suffer to rebuild and to get along, while the healing processes have not yet taken place.
However, the Fighters for Peace (FFP) NGO had positive plans for Tripoli. The experience of ex-fighters from the Lebanese civil war, who decided to turn the page and contribute to civil peace in Lebanon, is crucial. FFP planned to work with Tripoli’s ex-combatants to widen its impact on the Lebanese communities that are still suffering from the residues of the war.
“Our target is to draw together the roadmap towards local reconciliation in Tripoli. It is time to forgive and learn from the past”, said Ziad Saab, FFP member, during the weekend of 12 August 2017 to a group of Tripoli’s ex-fighters.
FFP, with the support of the UNDP “Peace Building in Lebanon” project, had organized a weekend-long workshop with 10 ex-fighters from Tripoli, mainly from Bab el-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen.
Nabil from Bab el-Tabbaneh said: “Even though we are practically neighbors, not in my wildest dreams could I have imagined to meet someone from Jabal Mohsen. I am thankful for this gathering! I unexpectedly feel that I have the right to know the other side of the story, to know about someone who’s been through the same experience but on the opposite side of the fire.”
Even though Jabal Mohsen and Bab el-Tabbaneh are geographically close, the weekend was a new opportunity for the ex-fighters to meet each other for the first time.
They also got to significantly benefit from the stories of the FFP members and get inspired by their transformation from fighters during wartime to fighters for peace.
The workshop, which was one of many to follow, included basic trainings on conflict resolution, storytelling, forgiveness and biography writing.
“Among the appalling things about our conflict with our brothers in Tebbaneh is that unlike them, when armed conflict stroke, we got stuck. We had no hospitals, no shelters and no safe zones to keep the injured. We understand now how much we both were tools for bigger political plans. Still, we aspire to become brothers again, and we are lucky to meet today with the unknown ‘Other’ and hopefully have an impact on Tripoli’s peaceful future”, said Ahmad from Jabal Mohsen.
At the end of the weekend, Fouad Dirani from FFP announced to the participants the plans of FFP in Tripoli until November 2017. The ex-fighters intend to host dialogue shows in 10 schools in Tripoli to help prevent the youth’s temptation to join armed conflicts. Also, FFP plans to host three theatre performances and a summer camp with ex-fighters and youth, to raise awareness on non-violent conflict resolution and transformation.
In conclusion, Fouad said: “When you go into a war, you deny others from their right of being different. You impose your point of view and you fight and beat them for it. When we look back on war, we remember the friends we lost and the martyrs. Though often, we don’t pay attention to what others have lost, nor what the country has lost either.”
He added: “If war strikes again, I would fight to prevent it.”