My Neighbor, My Enemy

2013, Military and War  -  54 min Leave a Comment
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Syria Street in North Tripoli, Lebanon is home to a decades-old sectarian conflict between the local Sunni Muslim and Alawite communities. The Alawite inhabitants of the Jabal Mohsen neighborhood primarily support the Assad regime of Damascus, whereas the Sunnis living in Bab al Tabbaneh promote the rebellion in Syria. Though the Lebanese military attempts to maintain a peacekeeping presence in the area, they are questionably effective given the regular eruptions of gunfire between the two sects.

Shootouts are so common that those living in Tabbaneh will even create "sniper screens" to hide themselves from their Alawite neighbors who live uphill and use this vantage point to their benefit when instigating an assault. On one end of Syria Street lives Sheikh Bilal al-Masri, a prominent figure in Tabbaneh. He portrays his people as the victims, describing them as a minimally armed group of families acting in defense against their constant aggressors. He lists the horrors he's seen come out of the Syrian regime including, but not limited to, torture, rape, and looting.

On the other end of Syria Street is Abu Rami, who defends his allegiance to the regime with equal persuasion. Also a prominent figure in his respective community, Rami has earned the nickname "living martyr" for the number of times he's been wounded defending his territory over the last thirty years. He explains that he fears humiliation over death, and his definition of humiliation is a bleak one – "The humiliation I'm talking about – and grew up with – is when they come into your house and kill your wife and children in front of you." It soon becomes evident that each side will always blame the other for starting the attacks that inevitably break out.

Viewers play voyeur to the assaults launched by each faction as shots ring out, grenades are fired and chunks of buildings are blown away. Area locals show off the ways much of the architecture has been modified to discreetly house weaponry. They call family members to warn them of incoming attacks, tour the hiding places within their homes, and share emotionally harrowing personal experiences of loss and violation at the hands of their neighbors. In interviews with people living both on the frontlines of the clash and in the more urbanized and civil areas of Tripoli, the audience is privy to the perspectives and fears of the larger public.

With both side equally determined to stand their ground and no end to the growing sectarianism in sight, the subjects are left questioning the long term implications of this ongoing struggle and if the escalating violence will inevitably overreach into the rest of Lebanon.