Late morning sunlight, warm and inviting, poured into the tiny apartment as four women gathered around Um Ahmed to offer their condolences. Half a dozen children huddled together on the stairs, their backs to a wall pockmarked with bullet holes. As Ahmed Sheikh’s family mourned, the familiar pop of gunfire sounded on Syria Street, an audible reminder of the latest round of clashes in Lebanon’s once-great city of the north.
Conflict between Sunni-majority Bab al Tebbanne and Alawi Jabal Mohsen traces its roots back to Lebanon’s civil war. Yet the civil war in Syria has spilled into Tripoli, heightening tensions and leaving dozens dead in each round of conflict.
"Me against my brother, my brother and I against my cousin, and all of us against the stranger." - Bedouin Proverb
Though this saying is commonly used to describe conflict, I found it especially true when photographing this story. Tripoli used to be one of Lebanon's greatest cities, a buslting port, and melting pot of people and religion. While living in Lebanon, news from the north came often, and it was never good. Yet most news stations never went beyond the obvious violence. In this project, I aimed to tell the stories of those behind the conflict - the faces effected by the violence, whose wounds are never seen.
The true damage, however, lies beyond the visible. Though hundreds in Tripoli have been killed and maimed by the fighting, though buildings in Jabal Mohsen and Bab al Tabbanne lie in ruin, pockmarked with bullet holes, the true destruction I encountered, lies within. Those who have the power to stop the fighting push forward to regain honor, and animosity between two peoples - once friends and neighbors - has grown into a lingering hatred and never-ending mistrust.
Many people on both sides — Tebbanne and Mohsen — claim the conflict in Tripoli will continue, even if the war in Syria comes to an end. The fear of growing hostility is not unfounded. The Alawi-Sunni feud that began during the civil war has never completely calmed, and neighborhood clashes could, with the right influence, easily drag Lebanon down into its own civil war - brothers fighting brothers once again.