What's the deal with the new Libyan flag?

As Libyan rebels take over, embassies worldwide have been replacing he old Libyan flag with a new one. Where does this new flag come from?

By , CSMonitor.com

  • close
    A Libyan flag, used by the Kingdom of Libya before Muammar Qaddafi's regime, flies at the Libyan Embassy in Tokyo Tuesday. The embassy replaced the all green flag Monday with the Kingdom of Libya flag used by the Libyan rebels.
    View Caption

Until recently, the flag of Libya held a special place in the hearts of vexillophiles as The World's Most Boring Flag. That's because it was nothing but a green rectangle, with no markings of any kind.

But starting in February, a new flag – red, black, and green with a white star and crescent in the center – has been hoisted at Libyan embassies around the world, from Switzerland to Bangladesh. It is the same flag being flown by the jubilant rebels themselves as they descend on Tripoli.

So what's the deal with this new flag? Is there a Libyan Betsy Ross among the rebels? Where did it come from?

Recommended: 5 reasons why Africa is not ready to meet its own security needs – yet

The new flag is actually a retro flag. It's the flag of the Kingdom of Libya, which existed from 1951 to 1969, until a group of military officers led by Col. Muammar Qaddafi overthrew the government. The rebel National Transitional Council is calling for the establishment of a republic, but many of the rebels have been seen displaying photos of the country's first and only king, Idris of Libya, who died in exile in 1983.

Before independence, Libya was governed by the Allies, the Italians, and from the 15th century to 1911, the Ottoman Empire.

The Kingdom of Libya's flag is based on the flag of the Emirate of Cyrenaica, a region in eastern Libya that in 1949 unilaterally declared independence from the Allies under King Idris, who then went on to unite it with the country's other two historical regions, Tripolitania and Fezzan.

Cyrenaica's flag was black with a white star and crescent. When Libya gained independence from the Allied forces in 1951, King Idris added a red stripe at the top to represent the blood of Libyans who died under Italian fascist rule, and a green stripe at the bottom to symbolize independence.

Upon taking power in 1969, Qaddafi renamed the country the "Libyan Arab Republic" and replaced the country's flag with a red, white, and black horizontal tricolor. In 1977, he changed the name of the country again, this time calling it the "Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya." ("Jamahiriya" is a word coined by Qaddafi and often left untranslated. It roughly means "state of the masses" or "peopledom.")

For the flag of this newly renamed state, Qaddafi opted to go monochrome. Green is the traditional color of Islam, traditionally the favorite color of the Prophet Mohammed, and a powerful symbol of life for people living in the desert. The color also complements the Green Book, Qaddafi's 1975 collection of musings and aphorisms on everything from economics to the biological differences between women and men, which all Libyan schoolchildren were required to study for at least two hours a week.

Qaddafi's green flag is not unprecedented: It was also the banner of the Fatimid Caliphate, which ruled over North Africa, including what is now Libya, from 909 to 1171. Like that flag, it seems that Qaddafi's green flag will soon become little more than a historical curiosity.

Share this story:

We want to hear, did we miss an angle we should have covered? Should we come back to this topic? Or just give us a rating for this story. We want to hear from you.




eZ debug

Clear cache:

Quick settings:

Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Script start
Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Module start 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Module end 'content'
Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Before parse_includes
Strict: PHP: E_STRICT Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Non-static method MugoViewExtras::get_view_extras() should not be called statically, assuming $this from incompatible context in /var/www/www.csmonitor.com/extension/mugo_view_extras/autoloads/template_operators.php on line 37
Warning: eZTemplate:def @ extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/override/templates/extra/archive.tpl:21[1] Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
Variable 'view_extra_node' is already defined.
Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36
After parse_includes
Timing: Jul 09 2014 13:30:36

Timing points:

CheckpointElapsedRel. ElapsedMemoryRel. Memory
Script start 0.0000 sec0.0208 sec 1,285.2422 KB1,162.1250 KB
Module start 'content' 0.0208 sec0.0046 sec 2,447.3672 KB717.3438 KB
Module end 'content' 0.0254 sec0.0476 sec 3,164.7109 KB2,976.4609 KB
Before parse_includes 0.0730 sec0.2626 sec 6,141.1719 KB392.1406 KB
After parse_includes 0.3356 sec0.0014 sec 6,533.3125 KB-170.9531 KB
End 0.3370 sec  6,362.3594 KB 
Total runtime:0.3478 sec
Peak memory usage:6,813.2188 KB

Time accumulators:

 Accumulator Elapsed Percent Count Average
Load cache0.0061 sec1.7374%310.0002 sec
Mysql Total
Mysqli_queries0.2610 sec74.4482%580.0045 sec
Looping result0.0019 sec0.5415%560.0000 sec
Template Total0.2780 sec 79.3% 7 0.0397 sec
Template load0.0046 sec1.3005%70.0007 sec
Template processing0.2756 sec78.6034%70.0394 sec
Cache load0.0023 sec0.6560%70.0003 sec
state_id_array0.0040 sec1.1373%50.0008 sec
state_identifier_array0.0041 sec1.1665%50.0008 sec
String conversion0.0000 sec0.0065%30.0000 sec
dbfile0.0005 sec0.1422%190.0000 sec
View Extra building0.0266 sec7.5886%20.0133 sec
Total script time:0.3506 sec

CSS/JS files loaded with "ezjscPacker" during request:


Templates used to render the page:

UsageRequested templateTemplateTemplate loadedEditOverride
1pagelayout.tpl<No override>extension/csm_base/design/csm_design/templates/pagelayout.tplEdit templateOverride template
1modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tpl<No override>extension/mugo_view_extras/design/standard/templates/modules/mugo_view_extras/extra_cached.tplEdit templateOverride template
1setup/debug_toolbar.tpl<No override>design/standard/templates/setup/debug_toolbar.tplEdit templateOverride template
 Number of times templates used: 3
 Number of unique templates used: 3
 Time used to render template usage: 0.0002 secs