The February 17th Revolution is a Libyan holiday commemorated on February 17. Also known as the ‘Day of Revolt,’ it is regarded as one of the most important events in Libya’s history, as it marked the beginning of the end of Colonel Gaddafi’s four-decade authoritarian rule. This day also reminds Libyans of the struggles and lives lost in demanding a democratic Libya, where human rights exist in their true form. During this period, Libya went through a series of tumultuous events. The Arab Spring is considered by many as the principal catalyst that led to the February 17th Revolution in Libya.
History of February 17th Revolution
The conflicts that ensued when Libyans demanded a regime change have left an indelible mark on their psyche. Libya was under Italian colonial rule and became an independent nation in 1951, with Idris I becoming its first king. Idris I was a politician and religious leader whose government was unpopular because of his conservative nature. In 1969, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi overthrew King Idris I in a coup d’etat, intending to move the country to greater heights. Gaddafi ruled for four decades, making him the longest-serving leader in Libya. During his reign, all social organizations and political parties were disallowed.
In 2010, The Arab Spring — an alliance of revolutionists, agitators, and activists — unseated many rulers in Arab nations, starting in Tunisia and Egypt, where leaders gave in to the demands of the masses and willingly stepped down. However, Gaddafi displayed a stern approach to the Arab Spring’s ravaging revolution in his country. On February 15, 2011, the first protest against his government was staged in Benghazi. Several peaceful protesters who gathered in their hundreds at a police station were killed. In response to that, organizers mobilized hundreds of protesters to come out at various locations across the nation on February 17 — the day that was officially named the ‘Day of Revolt.’ Demonstrations took place at Benghazi, Darnah, Ajdabiya, Zintan, and elsewhere. Dozens of protesters were killed as Gaddafi’s security forces fired live bullets on them, an act that led to the beginning of a civil war.
Later in 2011, protesters overpowered Gaddafi’s forces, leading to his capture and execution at Sirte to mark the end of the civil war and usher in the change they craved. Elections were held in 2012 with Ali Zeidan emerging as the Prime Minister.
February 17th Revolution timeline
King Idris I emerges as the leader of Libya.
Gaddafi overthrows King Idris I.
Protesters capture and kill Gaddafi at Sirte, marking the end of the civil war.
The first democratic elections are held with Ali Zeidan emerging as the Prime Minister.
February 17th Revolution FAQs
Is Libya still at war?
Libya was declared to be “liberated” by the National Transitional Council; the war officially ended on October 23, 2011.
Which language is spoken in Libya?
Arabic is the official language of Libya.
What was the old name of Libya?
Libya was known as Italian North Africa from 1912 to 1927; the territory was divided into two colonies, Italian Cyrenaica and Italian Tripolitania, from 1927 to 1934.
How to Observe February 17th Revolution
Partake in the events
Events are hosted by the State and locals to commemorate their freedom and speak about the progress and plans for the country. Be present at the closest event to you and share in the day's observation.
Hold discussions in neighborhoods
Speak with people in your community about the events before and after the revolution. Discuss the setbacks and improvements you notice relating to it.
Be an Agent of Peace
The most essential thing the country lacks right now is peace. Preach and practice peaceful coexistence.
5 Interesting Facts About Libya You Should Know
Largest oil reserve in Africa
The largest proven oil reserve in Africa is located in Libya.
Extreme desert conditions
Libya has the driest and harshest desert environment.
The land is infertile
The country lacks enough fertile land and imports around 80% of its consumed food.
Struggling with obesity
Libya is the country with the most obese adults in Africa.
A single monarchical rule
King Idris I was the first and only monarch in Libya.
Why February 17th Revolution is Important
Freedom was achieved
Libyans can now make demands, belong to groups, and even think of ruling the country as part of a citizen's right. These were things that were incomprehensible during Gaddafi's regime.
It ushered in democracy
The day set the stage for the adoption of democracy in the country, allowing citizens to vote for their preferred leader. We love this.
It’s a warning for dictators
The day sends a strong message to authoritarian leaders that trampling on their subjects' rights will come with heavy repercussions in the long run. This is essential in ensuring democracy continues.
February 17th Revolution dates