Thursday, October 25, 2012

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The Ghosts Of The Lebanese Civil War Visit Tripoli

Today is my first day at my Tripoli office after the Achrafieh Bombing of last Friday. During the past couple days, entering the city wasn’t advised at all. Those who attended their daily jobs were soon warned to leave immediately. Stories of snipings, and of insurgents shooting their automatic guns at random, were not strange to anyone who had been following the news lately, especially regarding the doomed situation in Tripoli. What is new, however, is the fact that in the aftermath of the Achrafieh explosion, the situation escalated considerably. You might be wonder “what could be graver than civilians shooting each other, and shelling each other’s homes?” Well, believe it or not, in some of Tripoli’s side-streets, people were encountering road-blockers who were asking for a sort of tax in order to let them pass.

Armed Men Tripoli

These “gatekeepers” were mainly kids; some of them carrying guns that look so heavy on them that “their shoulders appeared to be dislocated,” a co-worker later told me. He was held at one of these roadblocks (I don’t remember the name of the street but I recall that it was not one of the main roads of the city). A kid with an AK47—strapped to his crooked shoulder—approached him and asked him to pay up if he wishes to cross to the other side of the blocked street; when he replied by saying that he had no money on him, they took his pack of Marlboro lights, his lunch and an apple.

If you are finding it hard to believe that such things were taking place in Tripoli, Lebanon, I can’t blame you, because I didn’t believe it either at first. However, an additional recount from a different co-worker, describing the same detail, made me want to check for its validity. Toward the end of business hours, everybody in the office was talking about this; sadly these things were truly happening!

If you still cannot believe it though, you might want to check what was happening in other regions in Beirut, Tripoli and South Lebanon, where some road-blockers were asking for the identity cards of people. Those innocent men, women and children were discriminated by their religious identity—which could be determined by their First and Last names. Depending on your religious sect, you were either let go or “bullied”. Accounts of this taking place in various regions throughout Lebanon were all over the news. These shocking stories reminded us of the horrors of the Lebanese Civil War.

Lebanon Insurgents in Black Masks

As I arrived to Tripoli this morning, I was surprised by how “normal” everything was. Traffic was blocked as usual; people were walking in the street as if nothing had happened; and shops were open for business. City-life in Tripoli was back to normal. Many of you would consider such a scene as a positive sign that street violence was over. However, what I felt, when I encountered this awkward normality is completely different; to me this was a scary and worrying.

The question I pondered—which is the direct cause of my pessimism—is whether we, the Lebanese people, have become so accustomed to such waves of violence and civil insurgency, that we no longer show signs of fear and despair; and as soon as the situation allows it, we carry-on living our lives as if nothing had happened.

I know the Lebanese people have had enough of these devastating events; and that many of us have given up on this country—after having raised our voices to no avail, but regardless of all these facts, I could never understand how we no longer give these scary realities their deserved weight. Similar events have disturbed our parents during the civil war, and there is no reason why they wouldn’t end up extremely damaging to our own generation. Today, it might still be limited to a pack of smokes and a fruit, or maybe a couple slaps to the face, but who knows, maybe these bloody scenes that have given terrible nightmares to our parents in the past, might come back on day to haunt us.

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