Adonis Diaries

Posts Tagged ‘Tripoli (Lebanon)

Theatre helps keep the peace in Tripoli (Lebanon)

A conflict resolution project

In the early 1900s Syria Street, in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, was a busy, prosperous thoroughfare, lined with khans where goods making their way up the coast from Beirut were brought, before being transported onwards to destinations in modern-day Syria.

Nowadays, most of the buildings here are pockmarked with bullet-holes.

Few structures on Syria Street, which bisects the impoverished neighbourhoods of Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, have escaped the scourge of violence that has plagued local residents.

A New article in The Guardian about ‘Love and War on the Rooftop >>
‪#‎MakeArtNotWar‬ ‪#‎Tripoli‬ ‪#‎Lebanon‬ ‪#‎Play‬

When rehearsals for a new play began in this Lebanese city, the actors all carried knives

Since 2008, rival militias in these neighbourhoods have engaged in at least 20 rounds of gun battles, leading to the deaths of more than 200 people and forcing thousands from their homes. (Fomented by ministers in the government)

These bursts of violence have increased in intensity since 2011, when the outbreak of Syria’s civil war accentuated old grudges and political divides between the two districts that date back to Lebanon’s civil war.

During times of conflict, residents of Syria Street have become accustomed to sharing the area with snipers.

In Bab al-Tabbaneh, a Sunni neighbourhood of 100,000 with historical connections to Homs, Hama and Aleppo, opposition to the regime of President Bashar al-Assad is strong.

In contrast, the majority of the 60,000 residents of Jabal Mohsen share the same Alawite faith as Assad, and have maintained support for the Syrian regime.

These ideological divides helped fuel violence in an environment defined by high youth unemployment and dire poverty.

This year, however, the cycle of gun battles has abated following raids by the Lebanese Armed Forces. (As the government agreed to stop the created violence)

In their absence, local NGOs and civil society groups are tentatively developing initiatives to bridge gaps between the two communities. “Initially, making contact with like-minded groups in Mohsen was difficult,” says Hanna Abou Khalil, a project co-ordinator at the Tabbaneh Youth Council. “But we are making progress.”

One striking example was the production of Love and War on the Rooftops, a play featuring 16 actors aged between 16 and 29. Hailing from both Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen, most of the cast were former fighters.

To recruit these aspiring thespians to the cause, the Beirut-based civil society group March networked with the Tabbaneh Youth Council and NGOs present in Jabal Mohsen, such as Lubnan al Mahabba (Lebanon Love) and Chabab El Ghad (Youth of Tomorrow).

Auditions for the production began in February.

At the start, everyone carried knives,” recalls Lucien Bourjeili, a Lebanese writer and director brought in to direct the production. “They were suspicious of one another, and also us. An actor brought a grenade to one rehearsal – he was carrying it in a banana while acting. But by the end, a lot [of the actors] were not carrying knives.”

Love and War was staged in June at Masrah al-Medina, a theatre in the Hamra district of the Lebanese capital Beirut, 50 miles south of Tripoli.

“Most of the actors were fighters, people you should fear,” Bourjeili says. “But when you see them on stage, they are like other youth in Lebanon. The difference is that they live in poverty without economic prospects. The one thing that might make them some money is fighting.”

One of the key intentions of Love and War, Bourjeili says, was to highlight the socio-economic factors that have fuelled violence between the two neighbourhoods, and counter the negative stereotypes that are prevalent in Lebanese society.

According to a 2015 UN Economic and Social Commission survey, 56% of families in Tripoli live in poverty – but this figure rises to 69% in Jabal Mohsen, and 87% in Bab al-Tabbaneh.

Before appearing in Love and War, Samir Atris, a 25-year-old from Bab al-Tabbaneh, considered leaving Lebanon to fight in Syria. Hundreds of Tabbaneh residents have joined Syrian opposition groups including the Isis, Jabhat al-Nusra and Ahrar al-Sham.

There is no work, no opportunities, no healthcare here. Fighting pays a salary,” explains Atris, sitting on a bench just off Syria Street. “That’s why I fought here against Mohsen.”

“I used to think of people in Tabbaneh as terrorists,” says Ali Amoun, a 26-year-old from Jabal Mohsen who also performed in Love and War. “Many politicians help create hatred for their own interests. It’s the people who suffer.”

Early one morning in June, leaving his house before dawn, Amoun was stabbed in the ribs by an unknown assailant. The incident occurred shortly after he had appeared alongside his fellow Love and War actor Khidr Mukhaiber, a 21-year-old from Tabbaneh, on a primetime Lebanese television show to speak about the production.

The two had become friends during rehearsals – but not everyone in Tripoli was happy about this friendship between former fighters from rival neighbourhoods.

“I received calls from private numbers asking me why I was spending time with people from Tabbaneh,” Amoun says. “Others in the cast did, too.”

Undaunted, March – in collaboration with the Tabbaneh Youth Council – is now renovating a small building on an empty lot on Syria Street to serve as a cafe and performance space. Amoun, Mukhaiber and other Love and War actors will be involved in organising events and running the cafe.

Standing outside the new space – surrounded by foremen and painters from both Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen – Mukhaiber, who first took part in gun battles at the age of 15, says he is looking forward to developing new ideas and sharing expertise picked up during the production of Love and War when the cafe opens.

“I want to keep acting. Maybe there will be gun battles again, but I am finished [with that],” he says. “Before the production, I had never been to Mohsen. Now I visit Ali and he visits me. Our families have become close. We have both lost friends, but now he is like a brother to me.”

To read the full article please visit

A conflict resolution project by MARCH
Written and Directed by Lucien Bourjeily

Acted out by the amazing youth and ex-fighters of Beb El Tebbeneh and Jabal Mohsen ..

An inspiring group of young people, much love to you all heart emoticon xoxo

Is Violence a Normal news in Lebanon? How much faith is about right?

Samples of TV channel and international newspaper sound bites: “Lebanon on the brink of…,” “Syrian conflict spilling into Lebanon,” “Unrest in fragile Lebanon concerns region”…

Michelle, a Canadian girl, attending her last university years at the American University of Beirut posted on Aug. 16 under “Lebanon and the normalization of violence”

“Here we go. The frustrating developments in Lebanon have driven me to write. Considering the fact that I’ve just moved here for a year to study and ideally jump-start my career as a journalist, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But I’d much rather be writing about social issues, the beauty of Beirut and my experiences as an international student than the lawlessness and chaos we witnessed yesterday.

Here’s the thing. I love Lebanon. But it’s becoming harder and harder to reconcile the romanticized Lebanon of my mind with what is increasingly flashing across every TV channel and international newspaper. “Lebanon on the brink,” “Syrian conflict spilling into Lebanon,” “Unrest in fragile Lebanon concerns region.”

Lebanese have been reading and largely scoffing at these alarmist titles for a better part of 15 years. But as easy as it is to tune out the news and dismiss the developments with a proverbial “welcome to Lebanon,” it is becoming increasingly discouraging to see the kind of people who appear to hold the power in this country. The kind of people who burn tires, block roads, kidnap at will and incite threats because they are well aware that a state trapped in sectarian gridlock, unable to maintain a crumbling infrastructure and too intimidated to take a stand in a tense region will not act against them.

Amazingly, violence is a social norm in Lebanon. The average Lebanese was perhaps slightly alarmed, but not majorly shocked by yesterday’s events.

Many Lebanese worry, but hoards of others will simply turn off the TV and tell you that in 3 days, all will be back to normal – whatever definition that word has taken on here. But the purpose of this post is not to despair.

Lebanese have proven themselves to be extremely resilient to conflict, and the thugs on the street do not represent the majority of Lebanese. It’s been a long hot summer, and it’s not over yet. But let’s have a little faith in Lebanon…though maybe too much faith is our problem. More to follow.

Note 1: Michelle has been so immersed in the social life of Lebanon that she forgot to be specific about the terrible three-day violence that she mentioned. Probably, she is referring to the clashes in the city of Tripoli (Lebanon).

Note 2:

Ideal case study for alienated youth: City of Tripoli, Lebanon

This week was terrible in Tripoli, Lebanon. The gunfire is relentlessly going on. So far, 120 were hospitalized and increasing, a dozen killed , and scores of Lebanese soldiers seriously injured, paying the heavy price of a pseudo-State with a pseudo government. Why this infighting between two blocks of “rocket holed” buildings in Bab El Tebbani (mostly Islam Sunnis) and Jabal Mohsen (mostly Islam Alawits)?

Jabal Mohsen is a block of crumbling building built on a small hill overlooking the Syria boulevard separating it from Bab El Tebbani.

Since 2005, after the withdrawal of the mandated Syrian troops from Lebanon, these two quarters in Tripoli have been at one another throats.  Hysteric, out of work, never worked in their life, and terribly famished youth have this nack of stepping forward and grabbing the TV micro and claim that their weapon was purchased with their own saved money to protect themselves from the enemy…Whose money again? Who is this enemy?

The irony is that the government PM is from Tripoli, and he would not form the government until 5 ministers are from Tripoli, sort of securing a public base for the next election in 2013 and being proclaimed the political leader of this totally neglected city for 4 decades. These political “leaders” were totally helpless in resolving the deteriorating conditions…

The funny part is that the army didn’t officially enjoy political cover to take control of the infighting, until things went out of hand. Why?

A funnier story was told by the leader of Jabal Mohsen, Mr. Eid, that all their weapons and ammunitions are bought from the Hariri Clan (The Future movement), the same political party that extend the same kinds of weapons to the Sunni fighters in Lebanon…And from where the Hariri clan bring in this assortment of weapons? From this absolute Wahhabi monarchy of Saudi Arabia, the other absolute Emirate of Qatar, and the political cover of the USA.

After 4 decades of neglect, economically and in public facilities, generations of youth were brought up as “citizens” out of subject matter, out of touch from the remaining regions of Lebanon, a vast ghetto of famished, jobless, illiterate youth, and lead by clerics who are bought and sold for a nickel…

You cannot imagine how rotten are the brains of these clerics, under soiled turban and various headdresses…Their main jobs, these clerics is to get the youth moving out to the street, for one reason or another, preferably after Fridays’ Prayers, and chanting “Allah wa Akbar”, greater from who? They are in charge, these clerics, of distributing the proper weapons of machine guns, rocket launchers, batons, iron rods, tires to burn and block traffic…

After four decades of total neglect, the youth in Tripoli constitute the Ideal case study for alienated urban kids, to all kinds of researchers around the world, sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists, archeologists, mental derangement cases…

Two weeks ago, heartless and mindless local TV reporters wanted to have their 15 minutes”glory” under the sun and took the families of the kidnapped Lebanese in Syria/Turkey by total surprise.

The “urgent news” were displayed on TV channels that a Syrian fighter jet bombed a town by the Turkish border, and that the 11 Lebanese civilians kidnapped two months ago have all perished.  The news were false. But the consequences are not that false at all.

This tribe of Moqdad, and many other Lebanese tribes of Jaafar…(far more numerous than in Libya) reacted by kidnapping 40 Syrians and Turks…on the Lebanese soil and demanding their right for revenge…

Worst, the Moqdad tribe refused the minister of the interior any communication with them until the government proved that it has the  kidnapped Lebanese at heart and is working diligently for their liberation and is in control of the situation…

Lebanese gunmen from the al-Moqdad clan in southern Beirut, Reuters
The citizens of Saudi Arabia, the Emirate States and Qatar were urged (ordered by their governments) to fleeLebanon, and not just the fleshpots of Beirut.
As a reminder, kidnappings were fuel to the fire of the first weeks of the 1975-90 Lebanese civil war. But the reason for these abductions is a lot less clear.

Robert Fisk wrote a week ago:

“We have to look at the case of one Hassan Selim Moqdad, for whom Beirut’s latest hostages are held. A Lebanese Shia, he was seized by the Free Syrian Army inside Syria and videotaped babbling that he was a Hezbollah member, part of a 1,500-strong assumed contingent of Hezbollah fighters sent to assist Assad.

Now there happen to be about 17,000 Moqdads in Lebanon, all members of the same tribe but including not just Shia, but Sunnis and Christian Orthodox as well. The wife of said that Hassan Moqdad, far from arriving in Syria with a legion of Hezbollah fighters,had been staying in Syria since before the revolt began 18 months ago, because of financial problems in Lebanon.

Hassan’s money difficulties resolved, he was on his way home to Lebanon when he was kidnapped and transmogrified into a Hezbollah warrior. Hezbollah have denied that Moqdad was a member, just as they have insisted they’ve no militiamen fighting in Syria, a statement that may bear the merit of truth…

The Hezbollah Party of God cannot deny that the 40 hostages in Beirut – all but six of whom had been released last night as Maher Moqdad (another of the famous 17,000) announced an end to such abductions – were all taken in an area which the government long ago effectively handed over to the Hezbollah.

In reality, however, the kidnappings symbolise not the power of Hezbollah but the utter impotence of the divided, self-abusive Lebanese government.

Maher Moqdad said one of the detained Syrians was an army lieutenant who wanted to join the rebels. Meanwhile, those same rebels claim to hold dozens of Iranian ‘spies’ captured on the Damascus airport road, although Iran says that all were visiting a shrine outside Damascus.

But would Iranian secret agents really take a vulnerable bus to Damascus airport? The case is faintly similar to the six Iranian ‘militiamen’ captured in Homs who turned out to be legitimate power station workers.

Michel Samaha, ex-minister, ex-MP, and Lebanese supporter of Assad, is charged with plotting to blow up Lebanese politicians on behalf of Syria’s security, General Ali Mamlouk, the ‘terror conspiracy’ – without a shred of evidence publicly revealed – has become fact.

Like the mass of bank robberies around Beirut, the clan battles in the Bekaa Valley and the armed offensive against Lebanese troops trying to destroy the country’s hashish fields, the entire shooting match doesn’t exactly invite tourists and Gulf investors to sunny Beirut. Nor did it help when the Prime Minister, Najib Mikati, announced that the kidnappings “bring us back to the days of the painful (civil) war.” Nor, I suppose, is there a surgeon who can put Lebanon together again.”

Note 1: For an entire week, starting Dec.8, 2012, another round of clashes was ignited, leaving 12 dead and a hundred injured in Tripoli. Why? Two dozen Lebanese were dispatched to fight in Syria against the regime, and the regular Syrian army ambushed the infiltrators and killed them… The Lebanese army was there and was unable to restrain the shelling…

Note: One thousand personalities in Jordan signed a petition demanding that the King and his government desist from meddling in Syria’s affairs. Jordan has been submitted under heavy pressures from Saudi Arabia and Qatar to play an active role in Syria problems.

It is in the interest of King Abdullah of Jordan that the extremist Sunnis insurgents do not spill over into Jordan and depose this absolute monarchy, instated by the British Empire after WWI…

US Reporters’ Dean: Helene Thomas

Helene Thomas (Antonios) is now 89 years old and she resigned her post as reporters’ Dean last week.

She was the ultimate reporter since she was selected in 1961 to report on the Whit House during John F. Kennedy who started dealing seriously with “black civil rights” and ended her tenure with Barack Obama, the first black president to the USA.

Helene Thomas remained in that position for 50 years.  Helene Thomas had many privileges: She was to ask the first question to the President and she had a special room in the White House. She was nicknamed “sitting Buddha” for her long tenure as Dean of reporters.

The parents of Helene Thomas are originally from Tripoli (Lebanon); George Antonios and Miriana Elias Arwadi immigrated to Winchester (Kentucky)  in 1903; they had 9 children.

Helene Thomas graduated from Wayne University (Detroit) in 1942 and then joined United Press International.  She said to one of the Lebanese freshman journalists: “Mind this fact; good news are disseminated from the White House; bad news from the Foreign office.”

Bush Junior refused Thomas to ask him questions for 3 years. As the first opportunity came, Thomas asked Bush Junior: “I want Mr. President to ask you a question related to the invasion of Iraq that resulted in the killing of thousands of US citizens and Iraqis and maiming for life thousands others.  So far, all reasons offered to the public on that invasion turned out to be erroneous. What were your real reasons for going to war?  You stated that it was not for oil or for Israel interests.  Then what are your fundamental reasons?”

During Israel’s invasion of Lebanon in July 2006 Thomas said in the White House: “The US is perfectly able to stop this senseless war and we have huge leverage on Israel.  We decided to exact collective punishments on the Lebanese and Palestinians

On May 27, after the Israeli fiasco on the international “peace boats” convoy to relieving the population of Gaza and killing 20 civilians on the boats and injuring dozens on International sea, Helene Thomas could no longer retain her just sentiments of the apartheid State of Israel and said:

The Palestinian people are occupied and the land is theirs. It is bound of the Jews in Israel to return to their homelands in Poland, the USA, Germany, and France.” Thomas meant that Israel must stop welcoming new Jewish immigrants and given them the Israeli citizenship as they land at the Ben Gurion airport and encouraging them to colonize Palestinian lands in the West Bank.

President Obama sang “Happy birthday” for Thomas 89 years which coincided with Obama’s birthday too.  Thomas campaigned for Obama because she liked his national health plan to cover all US citizens.  The first question Thomas asked Obama in the White House was: “Do you know one State in the Middle East that own nuclear weapons?”  Obviously, Obama knew that Israel was the sole nuclear military State in that region and Obama tried hard to avoid answering. Obama reprimanded Thomas for that difficult question and Thomas laughed saying: “I wanted to test your courage

Helene Thomas wrote her autobiography in 5 books and she participated in Michael Moore movie “Fahrenheit 9-11” and the movie “Dave“.

We expect the Lebanese government and the Palestinian authority to honor Helene Thomas, while still alive, for her courage of working toward human rights of all the occupied people and expressing her opinions that mankind agree with.

Note: Helene Thomas died this July 20, 2013 at age of 93. Would be great to celebrate the day of Thomas passing away as “Freedom of Expression Day”




February 2023

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