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Middle East: Beyond Sectarianism


Tuesday 19 March 2019, by siawi3


Radio Hakaya — Hussein: Beyond Sectarianism

March 11, 2019

Photo: Hannah Kirmes-Daly

After joining a militia fighting for Assad in the Syrian war, Hussein now works at an NGO in his hometown of Tripoli, Lebanon, to counter radicalization.

Brush and Bow

Radio Hakaya is a community radio project started by Brush&Bow in a refugee camp in north Lebanon. Radio Hakaya’s podcasts are with individuals whose communities have been directly effected by the war in Syria and the displacement of Syrians to Lebanon.

Each podcast presents a subjective opinion that, combined with the rest of the series, provides a mosaic of differing experiences and perspectives of the reasons that people fled from Syria, of the living conditions in Lebanon and of the hopes and fears about what the future might hold.

This is the sixth podcast of an eight-part series. It is an interview with Hussein, a young Lebanese man from Jabal Mohsen. The neighborhood of Jabal Mohsen is home to the Alawite minority of Tripoli, a city traditionally known as the heartland of Sunni Muslims in Lebanon.

Since the years of the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), armed conflicts have sporadically occurred between Jabal Mohsen and its Sunni neighbors in Beb Al-Tebbeneh and Qobbe. All of these neighborhoods are located in the poorest areas of Tripoli and have been subject to bad governance by local militias and government officials alike.

At the start of the war in Syria, conflict re-erupted between the people of Jabal Mohsen and Beb al-Tebbeneh, reflecting the sectarian divides in Syria’s civil war. Enrolled as a fighter at 17, Hussein took part in the Tripoli clashes before joining a militia fighting in Syria on the side of the Syrian regime.

Today however, Hussein reflects beyond sectarian divisions. Based on his own experience, he shows how his decision to fight was fueled more by boredom and poverty than any ideological convictions. Disillusioned by the poor treatment received on the battlefield, Hussein gave up on violence and has now joined a local NGO working to de-escalate tensions and counter radicalization in Tripoli.

Hussein’s words are a testimony against a sectarian reading of the situation in Lebanon and Syria. In this podcast he explains that the problem lies not in people’s different beliefs, but in a general situation of poverty, too often abused by politicians for their own purposes.

His experience represents only a fragment of the very complex puzzle of memories and positions Lebanese ex-fighters have of the war in Syria and their experience of war in Lebanon. As such, it should be heard in relation to the contents expressed in the previous and forthcoming podcasts.

Listen here 10:18

Please note that all names have been changed to protect the anonymity of participants who, despite living in Lebanon, still fear for their lives. The views and opinions published on these podcasts are the participants alone and do not reflect the opinions of Brush&Bow.

For more information on the podcasts and their content, please contact Brush&Bow at brushandbowinfo

Brush and Brow is a collective that explores individual stories within wider social issues through art and music, with a special focus on refugee stories. The collective includes Harriet Paintin, a freelance writer and musician; Hannah Kirmes-Daly a freelance reportage illustrator; and David Suber and Roshan de Stone, Lebanon-based creative editors and project managers of Radio Hakkaya.