Despite being located just a short few kilometers from the front-lines near the Libyan capital Tripoli, life has remained relatively normal in the town of Tarhuna.
As far as most observers can see, life in the inland town of Tarhuna is as normal as ever. The city is bustling with activity amidst malls opening and people going about their business. Police officers are directing the busy traffic while on one corner, a wedding party is decorating the groom’s car. One would be hard pressed to believe that this town in Libya is just a few short kilometers away from the frontlines of the battle being fought between militias affiliated with the Government of National Accord (GNA) and Khalifa’s Haftar’s Libyan National Army (LNA).
Despite the calm, the specter of turbulence is not too far away. Tarhuna experienced several bouts of fighting over the course of 2019. Back in January, one of the main factions involved in the militia battles in Tripoli was the 7th Brigade based here. By April, Tarhuna was under LNA control, with much of the 7th Brigade switching to Haftar’s side. The agreement likely saved the town from the type of prolonged, tug-of-war type fighting being witnessed in Tripoli and towns like Gharyan, allowing it to retain a sense of normalcy. More recently, the shooting down of an LNA plane highlighted that the sense of calm can be shattered at any minute.
How Tarhuna fares in the long-term remains to be seen. It is evident that the town remains stable, functional and untouched by war despite being a short distance away from the forntlines. However, with the humanitarian cost of the fighting and the displacement in Tripoli growing daily, the future remains uncertain. Beyond this, both the GNA and the LNA have been accused of human rights abuses and arrests in the areas they hold. Haftar’s preferences for strongman tactics are especially well known.
For now though, such worries are far from the minds of the people of Tarhuna who hope that their whole country can share the state of peace that they are experiencing.