Drama helps Lebanese to bridge their city's divides

Wed Jul 29, 2015 11:44am EDT
 
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By Sylvia Westall

BEIRUT (Reuters) - Young people from two warring districts in the Lebanese city of Tripoli are taking to the stage in a comedy inspired by their own lives, trying to turn their backs on old rivalries inflamed by Syria's civil war.

"Love and War on the Rooftops" played to a full house in the capital Beirut on Tuesday, a rollicking play within a play about a Sunni Muslim and an Alawite district in the coastal city of Tripoli.

Some locals have welcomed the project but others have accused actors from both sides of being traitors, a reflection of the daily tension between the Sunni Bab al-Tabbaneh district and the inhabitants of Jabal Mohsen, whose Alawite sect is an offshoot of Shi'ite Islam.

It worsened four years ago when conflict erupted across the border in Syria, pitting the government of President Bashar al-Assad, an Alawite, against an insurgency dominated by Sunni Islamists. The tension often boils over into violence, and sometimes claims lives.

At first, Khodor Mukhaiber, 19, refused to act in the play with Jabal Mohsen residents. He never expected he would end up having friends in the Alawite part of the city, on the other side of the aptly-named Syria Street.

"I believed they were our enemies because that's how we were raised," said Khodor, who plays the part of an exasperated director.

"After I met them in this play ... I saw that we were alike. We're all young people - they don't have work, we don't have work, we have the same crises."

Around 57 percent of Tripoli's residents are classified as "deprived" in a United Nations poverty report published in January.   Continued...

 
Youths from Tripoli, north Lebanon, perform in a play in Beirut, Lebanon July 28, 2015. Young people from two warring districts in Tripoli are taking to the stage in a comedy inspired by their own lives, trying to turn their backs on old rivalries inflamed by Syria's civil war. REUTERS/Jamal Saidi