Tripoli’s Syria Street: A symbol of Lebanon’s divisions

In the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, one road symbolises the complex relationship between Lebanon and neighbouring Syria: the aptly named Syria Street. With the outbreak of civil war in Syria in 2011, Tripoli street also become a conflict zone. On one side, the Alawite district sided with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The Sunni neighbourhood on the other side supported the rebels. For several years, the street was transformed into a battlefield. Young Lebanese living in Tripoli fought each other, ready to die for a cause that was not their own. Today, calm has returned to the street and communities that were once divided are learning to live together again.

From the outset of the war in Syria in 2011, Syria Street, in the northern Lebanese city of Tripoli, became the scene of conflict. Echoing the war, the two neighbourhoods divided by the street were torn apart by violent clashes. Bab al-Tabbaneh, the Sunni district, sided with the opposition, while Jabal Mohsen, the Alawite district, supported the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. The restive street became a microcosm of the war in Syria

For a few dollars, idle young Lebanese men were turned into fanatics, ready to die for a cause that was not their own. Hundreds of people were killed in heavy gun battles while businesses and homes were destroyed. Syria Street became a front line, more than ever justifying its name.

For years, the war in Syria severely destabilised Lebanon and almost dragged the country into a copycat war. Although that did not happen, the conflict has had a lasting political and economic impact on Lebanon.

More than ever, Tripoli’s Syria Street symbolises the close relationship between the two neighbours, for better or worse. Today, the fighting has stopped and calm has returned to Bab al-Tabbaneh and Jabal Mohsen. The enemy neighbourhoods have been reconciled, but peace is fragile and the wounds of war are still raw.