Inside Lebanon’s Sectarian Battleground

Welcome to the frontline of sectarian warfare: Tripoli, North Lebanon. In Jabal Mohsen and Bab al Tabbaneh, violent clashes between Alawite and Sunni neighbours erupt every few weeks.

These two slum communities have been slugging it out since the 1970s. Neither has the energy or will to escape the futile, bloody conflict that has come to define them both. A mother of two would rather hide her children in darkness than flee the city: “Even if they enter our houses, we will slaughter them, kill them: it’s either us or them”. Abu Rami is one of the 50,000 people crammed onto the hilltop called Jabal Muhsin. “My enemy and their enemy is hunger, poverty and ignorance. My enemy is not the guns they hold and fire at me”. So says this war-weary veteran they call ‘the living martyr’, thirty-five years a militia leader – a gunman since his teens.
Down below in the predominantly Sunni district of Bab al Tabbaneh, Salafist preacher and father Sheikh Bilal al-Masri is trigger-happy and eager for a fight.”I’ve only witnessed death and killings, jail, torture, displacement, rape looting” he says of the Syrian regime. As the conflict seems to pass on from each generation, the population can only hope for a common solution to emerge from the carnage.