TRIPOLI, Lebanon: When the website Prosperous Tripoli asked 2,000 residents what they felt was lacking in their city, the No. 1 issue highlighted was concern over the ongoing lack of security. Some 693 people described the absence of stability in the restive northern city as an urgent matter that affects all citizens residing in Tripoli.
The deteriorating security situation is taking its toll on the residents of Tripoli and beginning to affect local businesses as residents of nearby villages – like Zghorta, Koura, Bsharri, Minyeh-Dinnieh and Akkar – are exercising caution before visiting commercial centers located in the city.
While a few shoppers still risk heading to Tripoli to buy products, the majority have stopped coming to the city. This is especially true on Fridays, as violent incidents in the past few months have usually occurred after prayer time has finished.
Constant rumors that circulate among the city’s residents about imminent fights damage the prospects of calm being restored to Tripoli. Nervous whispers about possible violence in the immediate future were ignored in the past, and few would have believed them, but the recent incidents have caused locals to pay closer attention to rumors.
Preserving the security situation has been a constant demand of the city’s residents, who see sustained calm as a necessary first step to addressing other concerns raised in the survey, such as employment and investment.
Some people consider the turbulentatmosphere as part of a greater conspiracy, while others see it as a result of the chaotic spread of arms among various factions.
Residents said that the increasing movement of armed men on motorcycles is the first sign of the collapse of any possible truce.
Political parties in the city have exchanged accusations of responsibility over Tripoli’s dire situation. Future Movement officials in particular accuse the government, which is led by a prominent political figure from the city, of largely ignoring the concerns of its citizens and doing little to improve their conditions.
Political figures who are close to Prime Minister Najib Mikati have also begun to voice concern recently.
Head of the Palestinian-Lebanese dialogue committee Khaldoun al-Sharif, a close adviser to Mikati, said that it is regrettable that the prime minister and the ministers from Tripoli are not taking the political, economic, social and electoral concerns of the city seriously enough.
Civil society organizations have also expressed their concerns about the security situation and made clear their feeling that Tripoli may be close to reaching its breaking point.
Several groups have arranged sit-ins in front of various government buildings in Tripoli, mainly the Serail, to protest the ongoing violence and demand a comprehensive plan to confiscate illegal arms from the numerous factions that have been involved in deadly sectarian clashes in the city.
The absence of any tangible solution to the ongoing disorder in Tripoli has resulted in a complete failure to address any of the other economic and livelihood issues that local residents brought up in the survey.
Some 450 people pointed to the lack of employment opportunities as their main concern, 264 said local investment in the city was a worry and 163 responders called for a complete overhaul of everything listed in the questionnaire.
Other concerns mentioned were job opportunities specifically geared toward young people and a greater emphasis on promoting local tourism.
Many of the anxieties expressed in the survey are linked to the violent clashes that have occurred recently, which have tainted the city’s image and kept visitors at bay.