For women’s full participation in conflict resolution and peacebuilding

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Lebanese protests against violence near the Syrian border

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The situation in northern Lebanon has made a turn for the worse during the last couple of weeks, after several outbreaks of violence in connection with the civil war in Syria. In the Lebanese city of Tripoli, the military presence has increased and there are significantly more weapons in circulation. But there are also people trying to stop the violence.

The escalating conflict in Syria is clearly noticeable in the city of Tripoli in northern Lebanon. Violence has broken out in the city on several occasions during the last couple of months, resulting in several deaths and injuries. In addition, many Syrians have fled across the border into northern Lebanon.

Tripoli is situated just 150 kilometers from the Syrian capital of Damascus. When civil unrest breaks out in one of the two countries, it often influences the other.

Supporters on different sides

Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström is working for the Swedish women- and peace-organization “The Kvinna till Kvinna Foundation” in Lebanon. According to her, there are several ways you can interpret the recent unrest in northern Lebanon.

- There are families living on either side of the borders – some support the revolution, while others support the regime in Syria – and this creates unrest. Others argue that it is the Salafists, an ultra-orthodox Islamic movement that takes the earliest Muslims as model examples of Islamic practice, who are trying to deliberately create disorder as a way of trying to take control of the region, she says.

Salafists worse for women

One person who is worried that the Salafis will gain a greater influence in the region is Lina Abou-Habib from the women’s organization Collective for Research and Training on Development – Action (CTRDA). The Salafis have access to money and weapons via Saudi Arabia and Qatar and, according to Lina Abou-Habib, both these countries are trying to worsen the division between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

- A take-over by the Salafists would be the worst scenario possible for women, and for people at large, says Lina Abou-Habib.

According to several Lebanese women’s organizations, conservative religious leaders have gotten more influential in the region in recent years. The conservatives are now highlighting the abuses committed by the Syrian regime and calls on people to support them instead.

Had to close office

Although the conflict in Syria has not yet had an effect on everyday life in Lebanon to any greater extent, however most people are expecting the unrest to return. The Lebanese Council to Resist Violence against Women (LECORVAW) in Tripoli is working to support abused women and has also, together with other organizations, been assisting Syrian women, who fled to Lebanon, with counseling and medical care. LECORVAW has had to close its office several times during the latest outbursts of violence. The office is located near an area where there have been bombings and fights between snipers.

- People are worried that an armed conflict is going to flare up again. If the politicians and leaders in Lebanon do not take strong action to prevent these types of conflicts, we fear the worst will happen, says Michel Daia from LECORVAW.

According to Michel Daia, all Lebanese in northern Lebanon are affected by the growing tensions, but the young are particularly vulnerable. It’s harder for them to find jobs and they are forced to relocate to other areas or countries.

Protests against violence

LECORVAW along with several other organizations, have been demonstrating against armed conflicts.

- There are people who are trying to fight the cycle of violence, for example by pulling together peace demonstrations, saying: “We do not want your conflict, we want peace.” Actions like that give hope, says Alexandra Karlsdotter Stenström.

Karin Råghall

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