Sunday, August 26, 2012

Lebanon fears a firestorm as old rifts that led to civil war open up again

Violence spilling over from Syria revives ancient resentments

Martin Chulov, Beirut
The Observer, Saturday 25 August 2012

"....However, on the streets of Tripoli and of the capital, Beirut, there is a strong sense that the sectarian faultlines that drove the Lebanese civil war are driving the current tensions.

"People are talking Sunni and Shia again," said Wissam Awada in Beirut's Hamra district. "People here have always cared about where other Lebanese came from, but this time there is an edge to their questioning, more of a feeling than usual that you are being judged by where you are from."

In Tripoli, where the clashes have taken place between an Alawite community in the Jebel al-Mohsen district and conservative Sunni groups in the nearby Bab al-Tabanneh district, there is little reason to believe that incendiary tensions will disappear any time soon.

"It has been happening here since May," said Maher Anwar, a visitor from the nearby Akkar region. "And every few months things flare up between the groups. The hatred there is growing."

Tripoli's Alawites are staunchly supportive of the regime of Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad. Most of the city's Sunnis remain implacably opposed to the regime and supportive of the Syrian rebel army, now locked in a fight to the death with loyalist forces little more than 100 kilometres away.

Tripoli has become a microcosm of many Syrian cities, especially Homs just to the east, with whose residents many in northern Lebanon share ancestral links. The clashes there have been been driven both by sectarian enmity and a social fabric and history that have long cast each side as protagonists......."

No comments: