The admins and members of the Facebook groups “Tripoli, the Capital of Sunnis” and “The Sunna in Lebanon II” have been very active since Saturday, reporting on the bloody events taking place in Tripoli. Posts and comments on these groups clearly implied that the street is not going to calm down anytime soon; it was speaking its own language, a very dangerous one.
Sunni Muslim Shadi al-Mawlawi’s arrest on Saturday, which triggered the violence, is not convincing. He was detained by officials from the Lebanese General Security, an institution that is controlled by Hezbollah and Amal and that is not usually involved in this kind of arrest. It is as if the stage was being set to ignite rage among Islamists in Tripoli, and that’s exactly what happened.
The Facebook groups’ posts called for jihad, lobbying Muslims “to join their brothers in the streets and never go home before all Islamists prisoners are released from Roumieh Prison.” The issue was not about Shadi al-Mawlawi; they wanted to defeat the state and “end the injustice.”
The sectarian rhetoric of the Facebook groups says a lot about the rage and determination of those affiliated with Islamists groups in the North. Feeling abandoned by the state and their so-called Sunni leaders, many have found refuge in the political identity and promise of victory provided by the rising Islamist groups in Tripoli.
Along with the feeling of belonging comes the sectarian anger, seemingly because Sunnis have been feeling threatened by the growing power of the Shia Hezbollah, even within Tripoli itself. The threat was at the door, and they had to do something about it, even if it was symbolic.
“Violent clashes between the dirty Alawite and Shia dogs and the Sunni lions of Tripoli. This is the threat of Hassan Nasrallah to whoever supports the heroes of the Syrian revolution,” posted the admin of the group “The Sunna of Lebanon.” Another commented: “Sunnis of Lebanon, this is your day. Rise united and join your brothers with arms and determination.” Another group, “Stop Intimidating Sunnis and Brothers” posted that they have arrested eight armed members of Hezbollah on their way to Jabal Mohsen, killing one of them. This was not reported elsewhere.
Some of the other groups they “like” are: “A million signature to put Khamenei in a barn” and “Sheikh Adnan al-Arour fans,” and others that link to Islamist communities in both Lebanon and Syria, with many references to religious moments in Islamic history and nostalgic recollections of past victories, interrupted by juvenile anticipation of another soon-to-come victory over the “dirty pigs of Assad and Iran.”
This cannot be taken lightly, as money and arms are abundant in Lebanon, and wars only need a stupid spark like Shadi al-Mawlawi. The problem is that no one seems to be capable of containing this anger. The immediate solution the state came up with was to send troops to the streets, a temporary plan that might or might not confine the clashes. But what about the real reasons behind this violence, such as extreme poverty, ignorance and a total loss of citizenship?
This is not the first time sectarian clashes erupt in Tripoli, although today it is certainly more dangerous considering the Syrian context. Every time, the state send troops, politicians meet and leaders issue statements, and then everyone goes back to their mundane existence, leaving behind the city to accumulate more rage and a collective feeling of abandonment.
The rage in the streets of Tripoli can and will be used to pass political messages, and some say that this latest round of violence was a message from the Syrian regime to PM Najib Mikati, who is from Tripoli himself. That’s why an institution like the General Security was sent to ignite the spark.
It is not a secret that Bashar al-Assad is not completely satisfied with Mikati’s “dissociation” policy vis-à-vis the Syrian revolution, allowing in and protecting many Syrian refugees in North Lebanon. Assad certainly wants Mikati to be more committed to the regime in terms of handing in Syrian activists, giving more support to the demands of FPM leader Michel Aoun, and adopting the proportional representation electoral law, which would guarantee better results for Hezbollah and its Syrian allies in the parliamentary elections in 2013. Mikati has avoided any comment on these issues for months, and Assad is not happy.
At the same time, this weekend’s events could substantiate Assad’s story of al-Qaeda and Islamists’ involvement in the Syrian revolution, including the smuggling of arms and terrorists from Lebanon’s northern borders into Syria.
It doesn’t really matter if this is true or not. The messages have been delivered, and those who started it will stop everything as soon as they see results. Meanwhile, the Lebanese will pay, again, in blood and lives for agreeing to pass on the message. No one is a victim here. We are all responsible, but sanity seems to be less abundant than arms, anger and fear.
Hanin Ghaddar is the managing editor of NOW Lebanon.