Interview with the founder

Interview with the founder
Monday, 26 August 2019 - 9:41am

“Our biggest achievement?” Taha asks, smiling. “For me, our biggest achievement lies in all the everyday small things which are perhaps invisible to the non-attentive eye. But if you’re able to go deeper, or know how things were before we started our work here, the new spirit that we have created, within this old landscape of Tripoli is impressive, reflecting the change we have achieved. This is the fuel we have to commit unwaveringly to continue our work.”

He starts where all great stories start: with the birth of an idea. In 2007, a Facebook group was brought to life to address the needs of several nostalgic Tripolian expatriates. They wanted to find a place where they were able to talk about their hopes and dreams for their city. As fond memories were exchanged, they realized that the common theme they possessed was an unconditional love for Tripoli. So was born, We Love Tripoli. Their passion for the city became translated into activities and as the number of members and activities grew so too did the question: how can we proceed to have real impact?

It’s a question that’s not alien to any of us but the question of ‘real’ impact in a milieu ravaged by division and sectarianism, class and armed conflict, is complex, especially in a city seen by those who have no connection and don’t explicitly love it, as nothing more than a forsaken and violent place?

Youth experience is an especially precarious position of intersectionality in Tripoli, Taha tells us. On the one hand, young people face real vulnerabilities - such as a lack of fundamental, physiological, emotional and social safety, along with a lack of purpose, narrative, hope, meaning, representation, agency or role models - whilst on the other hand they are burdened with large responsibilities - provision of financial and social security for their families - and are stereotypically stigmatized for being associated with conflict and violence.

“We needed to start from somewhere, and we needed to encounter the understanding that change does not happen overnight.

Change is a process, and processes take time. So we started from our own area of the city, where youth are relatively privileged and middle class. Motivated by a real love for our troubled city, we aim to extend this model [the We Love Tripoli model] throughout, expanding the opportunities available for everyone living in our beloved city.” 

Taha’s calm demeanor acknowledges the constraints of his impact on Tripoli. He notices his privileged position and the scope that these initiatives can have in trickling down towards the less advantaged neighborhoods. “But all in good time,” he says, smiling, reflecting a true image of the perfect combination between a realist and idealist. He breaks down the name of We Love Tripoli, explaining its comprehensive nature. “We” truly means all of Tripoli, even if this “all” is only realized eventually. Finally, “Tripoli” comprehensively includes both the new and the old, the rich and the poor.

In 2009, We Love Tripoli became an official youth-led organization. Over the next years, explicitly became more strategic, inclusive and began relying on youth engagement to slowly but surely address the image, credibility, and issues facing young people and Tripoli itself. We Love Tripoli recognized the importance of a youth-led organization to embed this social change in the shifting generations and to take control of the institutions and societal behaviors within their city and country.

Their plans for the future are simple, and captured in three words: “In Every City”. 

“We believe so much in this model. How can you not when you see such a behavioural change in the youth we have worked with, when you see cleaner streets for the first time, kids of different religions playing together, when you hear what We Love Tripoli means to them and for diverse communities here, how can we not want to share this model with the world? Growing up I heard something along the lines of ‘if you want to conquer, other nations need to be defeated’. Now I believe, I feel so strongly about the power of bottom-up, of communities and societies, inspired people, to strengthen, change and inspire.”

- Excerpts from an interview conducted by Linda and Freya Wordsworth from PAX

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