The Colony

The Kingdom

The Republic

People’s Republic







Present-day Libya was composed in 1934 from the Italian colonies Tripolitania and Cyrenaica. In 1943 the Italians were driven out of their colonies by French and British armed forces and France and the United Kingdom came to govern the three historical regions of Libya Tripolitania, Cyrenaica and Fezzan as a UN Trusteeship in 1947, when Italy formally relinquished its claim to Libya. The UK was responsible for Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and France was responsible for Fezzan. On 21 November 1949, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution that Libya should become independent before 1 January 1952.


Idris as-Senussi, the Emir of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and the leader of the Senussi Muslim Sufi order, represented Libya in the UN negotiations, and on 24 December 1951, Libya declared its independence with representatives from Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan declaring a union with the country being called the United Kingdom of Libya, and Idris as-Senussi being offered the crown. In accordance with the constitution the new country had a federal government with the three states of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan having autonomy. The kingdom also had three capital cities: Tripoli, Benghazi and Bayda.

On 25 April 1963, the federal system of government was abolished and in line with this the name of the country was changed to the Kingdom of Libya to reflect the constitutional changes.


The monarchy came to an end on 1 September 1969 when a group of military officers led by Muammar al-Gaddafi staged a coup d’état against King Idris while he was in Turkey for medical treatment. Following the overthrow of the monarchy the country was renamed the Libyan Arab Republic. On 17 April 1971 Libya became a member of the Federation of Arab Republics.


In 1977 Libya left the Federation and Gaddafi renamed the state to Jamahiriya, a neologism meaning “state of the masses” and the official namer of the state became “Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya.

In 2011 the Gaddafi regime was overthrown and a Transitional National Council took over government. 







A coat of arms for the colony was adopted by decree of 16 December 1940. It was composed of the arms of Tripolitania and Cyrenaica with a chief of the italian fasces as adopted on 14.06.1928 and made an obligatory chief of the official arms by decree of 12.10.1933.


Arms of the Colony of Libya, 1940

(modern rendering)


Arms: Per pale the first Azure, a palmtree proper on a base Or, a five-pointed star Argent in chief; the second Gules, a silphium plant Or, in chief a five-pointed star Argent. And a chief purpure, a fasces per pale surrounded by a garland of oak and laurel  tied with a ribbon in the national colors red, white and green, all proper.[1]


NB. The color of the field of the arms of Cyrenaica changed into Gules for the purpose.


After the occupation of the colony by the allied forces in 1942 these arms became obsolete.







Muhammad Idris

King  1951-1969



In the first year of the existence of the United Kingdom of Libya banknotes of  5 and 10 piastres and of ¼ pound were issued. On it was a provisional emblem consisting of a palmtree charged in base with two branches of olive in saltire (ill.). This emblem refers to the punic palmtree as on ancient siculo-punic coins; but also to the colonial arms of Tripoli (1919) and the emblem of the German Afrikakorps (1943). The elements of the emblem represent Tripoli, Cyrenaica and Fezzan.

In 1952 the emblem was replaced by the new emblem of state.


According to Article 6 of the constitution of the United Kingdom of Libya: “The emblem of the state and its national anthem shall be prescribed by law”.



A first provisional coat of arms of the Kingdom consisted of the arms of the city of Tripoli, dshowing a sailing vessel on waves of the sea, crowned with a royal crown and surrounded by a branch of laurel and a branch of oak. [2]


Medal with the coat of arms of the city of Tripoli, royally crowned

Said to be the provisional arms of the kingdom


The law about the emblem was published in the Official Bulletin of the United Kingdom of Libya, T. 2, n° 3 of 1 July 1952 about the adoption of the emblem of the state on 20 May 1952 (= 26 shaban 1371) and reads:

We, Idris the First, King of the United Kingdom of Libya have approved and decree with this


Art. 1.

The Emblem of the United Kingdom of Libya will be

A silver crescent and star, resting on a background of black surrounded by a green frame; all crested with a small golden crown, standing on a black base.

All in the centre of a red mantle and surrounded by 9 (nine) golden stars, the mantle decorated with golden ornaments.

All crested with a crown of a golden diadem with five hoops set with stars and bearing the crescent and star. [3]


In this achievement black is the colour of Cyrenaica, green the colour of Tripolitania and red the colour of Fezzan.



Al Jamhuriya al Aarabiya al Libiya  

01.09.1969 - 03.1977


On 6 November1969, Libya adopted an achievement similar to that of Egypt (the “Eagle of Saladin”),



It is:

Arms: Tierced per pale Gules, Argent and Sable

Supporter: The Eagle of Saladin Or and Sable

Motto: AL JAMHURIYA AL ARABIYA AL LIBIYA  in black arab script on a cartouche Or


The arms bear the colours of the flag adopted 7 November 1969.


In 1972 the Federation of Arab Republics unification plan led Libya to adopt a coat of arms similar to that of Syria (the Falcon of Quraish, or emblem of the tribe of the prophet Muhammad).



The emblem of the Federation was adopted by decree of 1 January 1972 and was:


Arms: Or.

Supporter: A falcon, its tail charged with two branches of laurel per chevron, Or.

Motto: FEDERATION OF ARAB REPUBLICS  in arab and arab script.


For Libya the name of the Libyan Arab Republic was added below the achievement.



03.1977 - 2011

Al-Jamāhīriyyah al-‘Arabiyyah al-Lībiyyah aš-Ša’biyyah al-Ištirākiyyah al-‘Uzmā



After Libya had left the Federation in March 1977, the achievement was changed in November of the same year. The falcon was turned facing to the dexter and the shield became all green, the colour of the flag adopted 11 November 1977. The name of the Libyan Republic was omitted but the motto “Federation of Arab Republics” (Ittiħād al-jumhūriyyāt al-`arabiyya) on the ribbon was maintained.


The emblem is depicted in different colours, the falcon often golden like in the achievement of the F.A.R. A more or less official version however shows the falcon black, the shield and the motto green. (illustration).


09.2011 - present


At the overthrow of the Gaddafi regime the Libyan Transitional National Council adopted a new flag in the “Draft Constitutional Charter for the Transitional Stage”:


Art. 2.

The law shall prescribe the emblem and anthem of the State.


Art. 3.

The national flag shall have the following shape and dimensions:


Its length shall be double its width, 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 together and shal bear in its centre a white crescent, between the two extremities of which there shall be a five-pointed white star.


The flag was adopted on 3 March 2011 and ratified 23 August 2011.



The National Transitional Council, supported as the legitimate administration by the United Nations since September 2011, uses a seal to certify official documents. The Emblem depicts a cresent moon and star, represented in the colours of the Libyan flag used by the NTC (red, black, and green), with the names of the council “al-majlis al-wa’anī al-intiqālī, The Transitional National Council” and of the state  Lībiyā, Libya”  displayed in Arabic and English.




By February 2016 Libya had at least four “governments”, though a year later there were only three.


A Daesh-affiliated extremist group set up shop in Sirte, Ghadaffi's home town, and amalgamated Jihadis with former regime elements, as was done in Syria/Iraq. The UN-backed Government of National Accord captured the Islamic State group's main stronghold in Sirte, effectively defeating for now the extremists' attempt to extend their caliphate to Libya.




Turkey and Qatar recognized the Islamist militia-backed General National Congress in Tripoli, and its leaders cannot even travel abroad freely. A self-declared prime minister said 12 January 2017 that his forces had seized at least three ministries in Libya's capital, declaring what appeared to be a miniature coup after what he described as a yearlong failure of the UN-backed premier. Khalifa Ghwell claimed his forces control the ministries of defense, labor and the "martyrs and the wounded." His so-called National Salvation government was formed by the outgoing parliament after a disputed 2014 transfer of power that led to the establishment of rival governments, each backed by an array of militias.



A new UN-backed Government of National Accord headed by Fayez al-Sarraj was formed on 19 January 2016 under a UN-backed plan, but the participants in this scheme were acting in their personal copacity, rather than as representatives of the two existing governments, which were expected to wither away. The U.N. helped establish this third government in Tripoli under Fayez Serraj, a Western-backed technocrat, hoping he could unify Libya and lead the fight against Islamic extremists. The Tripoli government became just another player in that divide, reliant on its militia allies. Chief among those allies are the militias of the neighboring city of Misrata, the strongest and most cohesive fighting force in the west.


The House of Representatives (HoR) government in Tobruk enjoyed broad international recognition and free access to international forums. The internationally recognized parliament, based in Libya's east, does not recognize the authority of Serraj or Ghwell. It was closely allied with Field Marshal Khalifa Hifter, whose forces have been battling Islamic militants in recent years. Hifter's forces overran several oil terminals last year, and he has cultivated support from Egypt, the United Arab Emirates and Russia.



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 © Hubert de Vries 2011-10-12; 2012-11-22; 2017-08-07


[1] Z., A. (1988). Lo stemma coloniale della Libia. Vexilla Italica a. XIV (n. 2): pp. 46-47 (Wikipedia)


[3] Hesmer, K.-H.: Flaggen, Wappen, Daten. Die Staaten der Erde von A-Z. Gütersloh, 1975. P. 127