By Nihal Zaroug.
Tripoli, 3 January:
A series of photos of a destitute home in Tripoli’s old city has brought the dire conditions . . .[restrict]of some of the medina’s neediest families to light and interest in the area’s dilapidated, historical buildings.
Photographer Nader Al-Gadi’s collection “The Slums of Tripoli” portrays the harsh reality of a family with several children and their run-down home, as well as visible damage to the old city’s walls.
The photos posted on Martyrs Square Media’s (MSM) Facebook page, have generated a large number of comments, many of which express disbelief that the images were taken in Libya’s capital, Tripoli. Others angrily question the absence of the state in helping underprivileged families and also for neglecting the preservation of a key heritage site.
After seeing people’s responses to the photos, members of the MSM team decided to hold a meeting to discuss ways to help the families and the old city itself. The meeting, held today, was open to the public and many civic groups such as Libya Al Kheir and Volunteer Libya, attended.
Al-Gadi believes that waiting for the government to act will take time, and points out that these families have been neglected since the Qaddafi era, when speaking out about poverty was not tolerated by the government. Qaddafi himself rejected the idea that Libyans lived in poverty, making aid difficult to organise.
Mohamed Fawzi Shagan from Madinaty: My City, a group dedicated to preserving Tripoli’s heritage sites and supporting residents of the old city, says that the current government and local council have been reluctant to act. “We cannot wait any longer, we have to do this”.
Preserving heritage and traditions is vital for the country says Shagan, but assisting families comes first, “the people before the place”.
The majority of those who attended the meeting seemed to share his convictions, and spoke of reviving the medina to benefit its residents. While addressing the crowd, a member of NGO Al Nama, said that if the families did not themselves take part in efforts to save the old city, moving forward would be challenging.
Al Nama is struggling to restore a kindergarten and school in the old quarters. The kindergarten is currently being used as storage for a nearby hotel and convincing the hotel’s owners to give the space to the community has been difficult.
However, Al Nama is undertaking other projects, in conjunction with local authorities, and an environmental awareness and cleanup campaign for the medina will be held within the coming weeks. Various individuals at the meeting pledged to support the campaign.
At the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the group would meet again to better structure its efforts to tackle three main issues, with priority given to humanitarian aid, the preservation of the old city and clean up works.
Mohamed Sherif from the Tourism Office, applauded the group’s activities and said that he could provide an office to hold future meetings in, and would help promote activities to reach a wider audience.
Monetary assistance, was not possible said Sherif, but he hoped this would change in the coming months and years. [/restrict]