Libyan Revolution Day, which is held annually on February 17, is a significant national holiday commemorating the 2011 revolt against the Libyan authoritarian dictator and revolutionist, Colonel Muammar Gaddafi, ushering in freedom from a 42-year stronghold of brutal rulership. The throne of leadership, attained via ousting King Idris in a military coup in September 1969, was plagued with corruption, linked to terrorism, horrific human rights abuses, and military interference. The revolutionist was ousted on February 17, 2011, an unforgettable day leading to hundreds of thousands of lives including children and millions of displaced people. He was the longest-serving leader in both Africa and the Arab world.
History of Libyan Revolution Day
Dubbed the “king of the kings” of Africa, Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, born in 1942 in Libya, rose from humble beginnings. In 1965 he graduated from the Royal Military Academy, Benghazi. In September 1969, aged 27, Muammar Gaddafi, came to power after toppling King Idris in a ‘coup d’état’.
Gaddafi painted the perfect picture of a natural-born savior; striking looks, fashion choices, a far cry from demure, and a head full of ideas (including unrelentingly pushing for the “United States of Africa” — this was the only way Africa could develop without western influence, he argued). Gaddafi, an Islamic modernist, promoted “Islamic socialism.”
His government was reputed for having unrepentantly financed terrorist groups globally, including the Black Panthers which led to the perpetration of heinous crimes. The International community was worried about his activities, leading to severed ties, but Muammar Gaddafi remained unmoved. Owing to Libya’s role in the 1988 Pan Am Flight 103 bombing over Scotland, which killed 270 people, Libya was sanctioned by the United Nations, which further put a strain on relations.
By February 2011 his government was already on shaky grounds. February 15th, angered by the arrest of a human rights activist and drawing strength from the Arab Spring revolution (2010) witnessing an uprooting of corrupt leaders in the Arab world, protesters in Libya’s eastern city of Benghazi clashed with the police as well as supporters of al-Gaddafi. This was the beginning of the country’s civil war. On February 17, 2011, a bloody armed rebellion ousted Gaddafi. It was dubbed “Day of Rage.”
Muammar Gaddafi fled into hiding as rebel forces continued to solidify their hold on the country. Desperate to track him down, a $1.7 million reward was offered on his head, dead or alive. October 20, 2011, after hiding for months in buildings, Gaddafi (69) was assassinated in his hometown of Sirte, Libya.
Libyan Revolution Day timeline
Under the rule of King Idris al-Sanusi, the North African country declares its independence as the United Kingdom of Libya.
Gaddafi takes over power by staging a military coup that overthrows King Idris al-Sanusi.
Warplanes, in April, are deployed to bomb Libya as Libyan terrorists are speculated to be behind the bombing of a West Berlin dance club.
The United Nations imposes sanctions on Libya following the bombing of 1988, Pan Am Flight 103 explosion over Lockerbie, Scotland, on December 21.
The United States announces it has frozen $30 billion in Libyan assets in connection to Gaddafi.
The minister states that he is no longer willing to represent the Gadhafi regime, he defects and flees to the United Kingdom.
The International Criminal Court issue warrants arrest of Gaddafi, son Seif al-Islam, and his spy chief for crimes against humanity.
Through gaining entrance into Tripoli, rebel fighters capture the Bāb al-ʿAzīziyyah compound — Gaddafi’s headquarters in Tripoli.
Gaddafi faces assassination after months of hiding by rebel forces on October 20.
Libyan Revolution Day FAQs
How did the Libyan Revolution kick-off?
Following a series of protests after the arrest of an activist on February 15, 2011, the Libyan Civil War began, escalating into an uprising against the regime of Muammar Gaddafi.
When did the Libyan Revolution end?
Known as the First Libyan Civil War, from February 15, 2011, it ended on October 23, 2011.
Can I visit Libya now?
Sadly, the country is still grappling with political unrest following the bloody toppling of Gadaffi, many governments advise their citizens against traveling to Libya.
How to Observe Libyan Revolution Day
Join the crowd
In special honor of this memorable day, Libyans across the country come out en masse at public squares to celebrate via parades, music, flag-waving, and various other interesting lineups of activities. Join in on this special day.
Zoom in on the history
If going out of the comfort of your home and dealing with crowds might seem exhausting for you, you could go down memory lane, combing through the Libyan quest for freedom via movies or the internet. You’ll be surprised by how much you might discover.
It's a joyous day that reminds us how short life is and the importance of forgiveness and fresh starts. Start afresh and move ahead. You've got just one life to live.
5 Important Facts About The Libyan Revolution
Muammar Gaddafi — first leader killed
Gaddafi, 69, was the first leader to be killed in the Arab spring which saw uprising rebellion across much of the Arab world.
2011 Libyan Civil War kick-starts
On February 15, 2011, the First Libyan Civil War starts, ignited by government-allied forced killing.
Many lives were lost in the war
Hundreds of thousands of lives were lost and millions were displaced from their homes in the civil war.
Muammar Gaddafi's last moments
Dragged out of a concrete drain while pleading for mercy, Gaddafi shouted, “Don't shoot, don't shoot!” according to one freedom fighter.
Libya boasts Africa's largest oil reserve
Formerly ranked amongst the poorest in the world, the 1950s discovery of oil turned Libya's story around with 48.36 billion barrels, placing it amongst the most prosperous countries.
Why Libyan Revolution Day is Important
Helps remind us about our power
Oppression thrives when people haven't found their voices. This holiday reminds us we have the power to always stand up for ourselves and demand change.
It helps bind us
Life is precious and letting anger and hatred rule robs us of the many joys of living. This significant day reminds us of that fact and urges us to want to do better, leaving good legacies behind when it's time to say our goodbyes.
It urges us to document the history
Our history is our story and its preservation is important. This special day reminds us to make good use of the time we have so our memories can last a lifetime.
Libyan Revolution Day dates