Welcome to Tripoli, the second largest city in Lebanon and a city living on the edge of chaos. Tripoli is an hour’s drive north of the sparkling boutiques and the Beirut flash disco, but it’s a completely different world. Like neighboring Syria, Tripoli is a predominantly Sunni Muslim city in a battle with supporters of the Alawite minority of the Assad regime.
One street, ironically, is the street Syria, which separates the two communities of war. Now, it seems that the conflict in Syria is threatening to spread in Lebanon and Tripoli is ready to explode.
You can hear a welcoming shot when you enter the center of the city. Local Sunnis celebrate the return of prominent Sunni military commanders after months of exile. It is Eid al-Adha, the festival of sacrifice, one of the most important holidays of the Islamic calendar. But in Tripoli festivals, celebrations are often false. Nobody has money and everyone is afraid of the emergence of conflicts between Sunnis and Alawis.
The tension between the two neighborhoods is higher than ever. Even the smallest possible collisions can spread out of control, stroking two communities against each other in street battles. The war in Syria pushed the Lebanese border to the edge of the endless and horrible fields of war, and nowhere is the volatile situation more evident in the second city of Tripoli. The weak government of the country is clearly not in a position to stop this hostile street.
With the law no longer in Tripoli, the warlords, like Commander Sunni Ziad Allouki, are now the real kings of the city, so VICE communicated with him and his warriors for a time. It is time to know why they are fighting and whether the country is truly the edge of civil war.
Watch Warlords of Tripoli full length documentary film