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National Flag of Libya: History and Meaning

The flag of Libya has a very interesting history and meaning. It has stood as a symbol of hope and victory for the people of Libya through various shifts in power. Read on, to know more about the national flag of Libya.
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Fact about the national flag of Libya
Did You Know?
Under Muammar Gaddafi's rule, the national flag of Libya was the only monochromatic flag in the world. It consisted of a rectangle of green, with no insignia, stripes, or symbols of any kind.
Libya is a North African country on the Mediterranean coast. It has been a part of several kingdoms and imperial regimes, as well as had its share of dictators. Its flag reflects this chaotic history of the nation better than anything else.

1951-present

The current national flag of Libya was first used in 1951, as the flag of the Kingdom of Libya, which was formed in culmination of the Allied occupation of Libya after the Second World War. According to the Libyan Constitution at the time,

Chapter 1, Article 7: The national flag shall have the following dimensions: Its length shall be twice its breadth, it shall be divided into three parallel coloured stripes, the uppermost being red, the centre black and the lowest green, the black stripe shall be equal in area to the two other stripes combined and shall bear in its centre a white crescent, between the two extremities of which there shall be a five-pointed white star.

current flag of Libya
Current flag of Libya

This design was based on the flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica. This administration came to power in British-controlled Libya in 1949. This flag was used with some minor modifications by the ruler of Cyrenaica, King Idris, after he became the ruler of Libya, as his Royal Standard.

flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica
Flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica

When the Emirate was replaced by the Kingdom of Libya, this design was not acceptable to other factions of the now-unified Libyan people. So, the design was modified to give the flag a new meaning in light of the newfound independence. The red stripe was added to signify the bloodshed that occurred under the Italian Fascist rule, and the green stripe was added to represent the prosperity and freedom of Libya. The crescent, retained from Idris' flag, as well as the green strip honor the major religion in Libya―Islam.

This original design was superseded several times during the reign of Muammar Gaddafi from 1969 to 2011. Immediately following the revolution that brought Gaddafi to power, the flag was changed to one showing the pan-Arab colors. These colors also form the basis for the flag of several other Arab states such as Egypt, Iraq, and the UAE, even to this day. This flag lasted from 1969 to 1972.

pan-Arab colors
Flag of Libya from 1969-1972

This flag was replaced by the flag of the Federation of Arab Republics, which also included Egypt and Syria. This kept the color scheme the same, but added a hawk holding a scroll in the center stripe. The scroll held the Arabic name of the Federation. This Federation lasted from 1972 to 1977, and consequently the flag also went out of fashion in 1977.

flag of the Federation of Arab Republics
Flag of the Federation of Arab Republics (1972-1977)

In 1977, the most well-known and as yet longest-lasting flag of Libya, then known as Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, was established. The plain green rectangle signified the country's allegiance to Gaddafi's philosophy, encapsulated in his Green Book. As stated before, this was the only flag in the world to consist of a single color.

old flag of Libya
Flag of the Libyan Arab Jamahiriya

This flag was replaced by the original, 1951-1969 flag of the Kingdom of Libya after the 2011 Libyan Civil War and eventual ouster of Muammar Gaddafi. The flag became a symbol of the revolution, as several versions with minor modifications as well as the unaltered version were used by protestors.

Before 1951

Though a flag of a unified Libya only came into existence in 1951, the region of Libya had several flags before it. The flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica has been mentioned before. The region of Fezzan-Ghadames had a similar design. This region was later merged with Tripolitania and Cyrenaica to form the Kingdom of Libya.

flag of Fezzan-Ghadames
Flag of Fezzan-Ghadames

The Tripolitanian Republic, an attempt to control the former Ottoman colony (vilayet) of Tripolitania, had a flag with a palm tree and a white star on a light blue background. This venture was short-lived, and was never powerful enough to be the sole ruler of Libya.

flag of Tripolitania
Flag of Tripolitania

During the Allied occupation, the respective regions of Libya occupied by Britain and France had the same flags as their occupiers. Before that, Libya was part of the Italian Empire, and used its flag.
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Published: May 6, 2014
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