Tripoli deserves the best: An interview by Fighters for Peace
Forum for Cities in Transition, Stolat, Bulgaria
by Fighters for Peace
25 October 2016

In a quiet Bulgarian town, peacemakers from 15 cities around the world gathered for the 7th global gathering of the Forum for Cities in Transition.

The Forum for Cities in Transition is a network of representatives of civil society, business people, municipalities, artists and academics from cities which underwent a transition from violence to peace – cities such as Belfast, Derry, Kirkuk, Ramallah, Jerusalem, Sarajevo or even Berlin-Mitte.

This year’s focus was on Tripoli, Lebanon. Tripoli underwent a violent conflict which began in 2008 and lasted until 2014. The conflict between Sunnis in Bab el Tabbaneh neighborhood and the Alawites in Jabal Mohsen neighborhood is currently on hold, but the problems between the two sects – and between the conflicting neighborhoods – haven’t been resolved yet.

Fighters for Peace participated in the Forum, and our Christina Foersch Saab sat down with Nabil Shinder, from ‘Youth for Growth and Development’, a Lebanese organization that runs a program called “Tripoli deserves the Best”.

Q: What does your organization work for?

Our program works on many programs for Tripoli, on awareness and giving skills for youth for example. We also developed an educational strategy against violence, and we facilitated many meetings of different people in many places.

Our NGO is part of the network Forum for Cities in Transition. Tripoli is a new member. The common thing between these cities is that they all had a conflict. Some passed from war to peace, whereas others are still undergoing the stage of conflict. One of the things we were working on is to draft a road map towards reconciliation in Tripoli. We didn’t have reconciliation in Lebanon. The civil war just ended like that, but there wasn’t reconciliation among people; we didn’t have people listen to each other, and tell each other ”These are our problems.”

Bab el Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen and other neighborhoods are places where there was violence from 1975 till now, namely between Sunni and Alawites. For the people nothing has been resolved yet, and maybe they are preparing for new rounds of violence and conflict.

Q: What was your study about?

Our plan was to create focus groups and interview different people from these conflicting areas in Tripoli. We reached around 300 persons – women, men, youth, ex-fighters, and victims. We were talking about two periods, from 1975-1990 and from 2008-2015. So we spoke to ex-combatants from the civil war and we spoke to the new fighters as well.

Q: What were the objectives of these focus group meetings?

Our objective was to start from the bottom up. We started with people who are victims, who are from inside the conflict areas. How do they see themselves? What do they want? What are they planning for? What do they want us to do? This is why we wanted to talk to them on a grass-root level. Now we are trying to make a road map towards reconciliation. The roadmap is not only based on what we heard from people on the grass-root level, but we also talked to many national and international experts and made studies.

Q: Fighters for Peace participated in those focus groups sessions; how did you find their participation? And how are they linked to your road map for reconciliation?

Fighters for Peace are ex-fighters and have experience in the Lebanese civil war, and they transformed into warriors for peace. The new ex-combatants in Tripoli just passed from violence to peace. So the ex-combatants from Fighters for Peace, who are now working for peace, are very important role models for the new generation of fighters who are just coming out of the conflict. In the beginning, it was probably a bit difficult to talk to the fighters from Tripoli, but then, little by little, some of them asked what they could do to move from violence to peace. Some of them asked how they could be part of this movement of Fighters for Peace.  I believe that we’re going in the right direction.

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