Libya’s Protest Flag

Since January, demonstrators have been protesting the Libyan government leaders and their policies. Protests are related to a variety of important issues, including housing, unemployment, human rights, and governmental corruption. Demonstrations began in January when protesters broke into and occupied a government housing project that was experience delays in development.

Protests escalated in mid-February after Libyan human rights activist Fathi Terbil was arrested. As demonstrations broke out, the Libyan government began taking violent measures, including firing guns from helicopters into crowds of anti-government protesters. On February 21, after stealing weapons from Libyan security buildings, protesters marched to the courthouse, lowered the current Libyan flag and raised the old flag of the Kingdom of Libya.

Protests have continued through February and the flag of the Kingdom of Libya has become an important symbol of these demonstrations. On February 24, for example, protesters seized control of Tobruk and celebrated by waving the old Libyan flag.

The situation in Libya continues to change by the hour. World leaders are encouraging Libya’s leader Moammar Gadhafi to abdicate his power as the opposition organizes an interim government. The United States is offering assistance to the Libyan opposition and the United Nations is imposing sanctions on the country’s government, warning that there will be consequences for Gadhafi.

The flag that protesters have been using during these recent demonstrations is the flag of the Kingdom of Libya. The flag was adopted in 1951, when Libya gained independence from Italy. It was used until 1969, when a military coup lead by Libya’s current ruler Muammar Gadhafi, overthrew the Libyan monarchy and declared the country the Libyan Arab Republic.

The flag is rectangular with three stripes. A red stripe lines the top of the flag and a green stripe lines the bottom. The black stripe in the center of the flag is twice as wide as the green and red stripes. In the center of the flag is the white crescent and star that is used on the flags of many Islamic nations around the world. The black background and white crescent has its roots in the flag of the Senussi dynasty, of which Libya’s king during the 1950s and 60s was a part. The red stripe represents Fezzan, the southwestern region of Libya and also symbolizes the bloodshed by the Libyan people during the quest for independence. The green stripe pays homage to the green flag of the Libyan province Tripolitania and symbolizes prosperity.

“Recap of developments in the Middle East, North Africa,” Inquirer Politics, February 27, 2011.
“Unrest in the Middle East and Africa—country by country,” CNN, February 27, 2011.

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