TRIPOLI, Lebanon: Ever since terror struck Tripoli last month, with twin car bombings that ripped through the city targeting two mosques, killing 47 and causing severe property damage, residents have remained fearful with the tragedy leaving many traumatized.
But the horrifying incidents have also compelled thousands of men and women to take to the streets and volunteer their services.
This is a striking development in Tripoli, Lebanon’s second-largest city whose civil society has been notoriously ineffective in the public sphere, mainly due to the constant instability and fragile security situation making it impossible for many well-meaning activists to organize campaigns.
The post-bombing volunteer campaigns, which have proven to be relatively successful, began with renovation projects in the vicinity of the two mosques. This initiative was organized with the participation of numerous civil society groups, all of whom are united in their staunch opposition to the violence that so often breaks out in the city.
The gathering of civil society groups included independent nonpartisan institutions, local societies and organizations whose members said they believed in coexistence, ending the recurrent rounds of violence and the necessity of establishing security and stability in the northern city home to nearly 600,000 people.
“Following the two explosions in Tripoli, the gathering established a crisis cell to help those who were hurt or those who suffered property damage caused by the explosions,” said the coordinator of the group of activists, Elias Khlat. “The gathering also announced that it has set up a bank account, operational for two months, to receive donations from Lebanon and abroad so that those who want to help the residents of Tripoli in overcoming this crisis can.”
Referring to the damage surveyed as a result of the bombings, Khlat said, “We isolated 140 damaged shops, we have finalized renovation projects in some of them, while there are other shops that were completely destroyed and we are still working to reconstruct and renovate them.”
He added, “[For the renovation] we depend on the specialized knowledge of the students from vocational schools in the north, who volunteered because they felt that their work would benefit their society.”
According to Khlat, the campaign was not just concerned with damaged buildings but also with the psychological trauma suffered by the residents in the aftermath of the car bombings.
“We are also working on compensating 18 street vendors, who used to sell their goods in the vicinity around the mosques,” he said.
The spokesperson for the campaign, Motiaa Hallaq, said that since Sept. 11, 43 shops had been renovated, and that construction was still underway on 10 others.
“Some of those will also be finished in the upcoming days after the facades and gates, which may need more work, are complete,” she said.
“[We] aim to finalize the works as soon as possible especially at the start of the school year, and we want the owners of the shops to get back to work a soon as possible.”
Facing Al-Taqwa Mosque, volunteers removed rubble from the area and cleaned the square nearby where one car bomb exploded.
Some volunteers could be seen working on their laptops to register and coordinate with other construction sites and confirm the areas that had been completed.
As for the Al-Salam Mosque, the renovation work has also been finalized and its outer square cleaned.
“The crisis cells have achieved much work in this area, especially as there were houses damaged in the area and not just shops. We want everyone to resume their normal lives as soon as possible,” said Khaled Hamid, the coordinator of the renovation project.