Among the crowds of demonstrators at “Al-Nour Square” in Tripoli, northern Lebanon, a young man in his twenties, masked with his keffiyeh, stood with his comrades from the popular “Al-Baraniyah neighborhood” in the city.
The young man, who refused to be named, says, “We will enter into a confrontation against the authority that starved us, regardless of the cost because the security forces are chasing us on charges of inciting riots and chaos.”
Tripoli has been living for three nights in a state of chaos, following clashes between hundreds of demonstrators and the security forces, but the most violent one took place last Wednesday night, and resulted in the killing of a 30-year-old protester named Omar Taiba, who died at dawn of being hit by live bullets in the back, and he is one of the poor neighborhoods. His family called him a “young victimized martyr,” and about 226 civilians and military personnel were wounded, according to the health authorities.
Although several Lebanese regions are witnessing some mobile movements, in protest of the living conditions that have doubled the tragedy of thousands of families after the public health war imposed by the authorities due to the outbreak of the new Corona virus (Covid-19), but the scene of the protest in Tripoli seemed exceptional.
From this northern city known as the second capital of Lebanon, hundreds in the afternoon flocked to the “Square of Light” and set off with marches that quickly developed into violent confrontations at night, interspersed with the throwing of stones and “Molotov cocktails” from the side of the demonstrators, while the security forces responded with tear gas and rubber bullets, then developed to exchange Live bullets and grenades.
For hours, the demonstrators were insisting on storming the Tripoli Brigades, which includes the governorate center and some government, judicial and security centers, so they climbed on the wall several times and set fire to some of its entrances.
These developments prompted the police to issue successive statements, in which they warned that they would deal “with the attackers with all severity and decisiveness, using all available means according to the law,” and said that “the bombs fired at the officers are military grenades, not sound or Molotov cocktails, which resulted in 9 injuries. Elements, including 3 officers, one of them was seriously wounded. “
One of the demonstrators is called Muhammed (35 years), a father of three, who lost his job in repairing cars a few months ago and became unable to secure his family’s sustenance. He shouted angrily, “We are not amateurs in street battles, but we lost our dignity, and I became unable to buy milk for my child, because it is It is missing and I can only find it at exorbitant prices, and we all turned into beggars because of the high cost of living. “
Meanwhile, a masked young man interrupts him, “The authority wants to suppress us with Corona, but they do not know that we are afraid of humiliation and need more than disease, and we will not return from the street after today, regardless of the cost.”
The people of Tripoli complain of the state’s marginalization of them, as they say, as more than half of its population lives below the poverty line, despite the fact that it includes the largest wealthy people in Lebanon.
In previous historical stages, it suffered from the authority of the guardianship of the Syrian regime (1990-2005), and a large percentage of its youth were affected by the Syrian revolution, and lived more than 20 rounds of fighting between Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen (with an Alawite majority), in which the file of the “Islamic detainees” emerged. And it played a prominent role during the protest movements after October 17, 2019, and at that time it also witnessed confrontations between the demonstrators and the army, and the fear of driving the city into a rivalry with the security institutions continued.
For decades, Tripoli seemed to be a soft flank for Lebanon, and a fertile ground for the exchange of political and regional messages between the country’s competing forces.
The most prominent question
However, the most prominent question raised by some observers remains the following: Is there anyone seeking to exploit the anger of citizens affected by living crises to score points and pass political messages?
In this context, Adeeb Nehme, a member of the “Tishreen” civil meeting and an expert on development policies, considers that what is happening in Tripoli differs from other areas in terms of violence, and that “people taking to the streets are behind the level of the crisis,” because the poor Lebanese are as well. The middle classes are peaceful and peaceful, which exceeds expectations in situations similar or less dangerous than what is happening in Lebanon.
Nehme added to Al-Jazeera Net that no one can predict the path of escalating matters, after people were unable to achieve their goals by toppling stubborn authority in the October 17th movements.
The expert believes that the people who went to the violent confrontations in Tripoli are more willing than others to be in the front lines, because they have nothing to lose and because they are young people who came from poor and marginalized areas. It is expected that popular movements will escalate in the next phase, to spread to all Lebanese regions, “because the state She did not take any action to absorb the anger and resentment of the citizens. “
Nehme fears that political parties will try to exploit the street, based on previous experiences, without the matter canceling the right to move, and those who push people to more violence and chaos according to it are the parties to the authority in a systematic manner.
Politically, the scenes of violence in Tripoli led to political polarization between the various forces that exchanged indirect accusations with each other. Caretaker Prime Minister Hassan Diab said yesterday, “The government is not formed or disrupted by burning wheels, road blockages, attacks on state institutions and targeting the internal security forces and the Lebanese army.”
The Lebanese Prime Minister-designate Saad Hariri tweeted, saying, “There may be parties behind the moves in Tripoli that want to send political messages, and there may be those who take advantage of the people’s pain and the hardship of living that the poor suffer.”
While the state of stalemate continues, differences still exist between Hariri and President Michel Aoun and his political team in the government file. Many forces in Lebanon were betting on international changes to solve the pending issues in Lebanon, as some were waiting for US President Joe Biden to enter the White House, and for his approach to the Lebanese file to be more flexible than that of his predecessor Donald Trump, but the atmosphere is still foggy in Lebanon. Regional level.
In practice, the movements in Tripoli take complex political and security dimensions, because they have a Sunni majority, and Sunni political forces have long contested them in the parliamentary elections, as they are considered a “strategic” area to stabilize their influence.
In this regard, writer and political analyst Munir al-Rabee ‘believes that there are political parties seeking to exploit the rightful popular movements, to transform them in a way that serves their agenda.
Al-Rabee ‘said in a statement to Al-Jazeera Net that some political forces seek to use the street morally by means of political pressure, and this may be through subjugation with groups affiliated with it, as it has historically been prone to in Lebanon.
However, this political exploitation does not mean that the popular movements are a conspiracy, according to Al Rabeeh, who commented on Diab’s statements, saying that it accuses Hariri of using the Sunni street to pressure the forces that hinder the formation of the government.
Al-Rabeeh indicates that Hariri has received other accusations from President Aoun’s team, bearing him responsible for moving some groups in Tripoli with the aim of pushing for the formation of the government and pushing the President of the Republic to make concessions.
On the other hand, observers believe that the street has turned into an arena penetrated by the various competing forces. Al-Rabee ‘believes that political investment in this move is also subject to expansion, within the framework of the game of exchanging political messages, which complicates any possibility of the birth of the government.
Al-Rabeeh expects that the street will later be used in Hariri’s face, in order to push him to make concessions in favor of Aoun and his allies, which means that the stubbornness will remain if both Hariri and Aoun harden their position, and that the atmosphere of vacuum and chaos will prolong the Lebanese scene, according to the analyst.
Meanwhile, calls continue to take place in Tripoli to take to the streets, while the security forces are increasing their measures, which means that we may be facing future nights of violence and confrontations.