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Idris ( ar, إدريس الأول; El
Sayyid ''Sayyid'' (, ; ar, سيد ; ; meaning 'Lord', 'Master'; Arabic plural: ; feminine: ; ) is an honorific title denoting people accepted as descendants of the Prophets in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad and his cousin and son-in-law Ali ( ...

Sayyid
Prince Muhammad Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi; 13 March 1890 – 25 May 1983) was a
Libyan Libyans (ليبيون) and their population density, Ethnic group, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the Libyan population. No complete population or vital statistics ...
political and religious leader who served as the
Emir Emir (; ar, أمير ' ), sometimes Romanization of Arabic, transliterated amir, amier, or ameer, is a word of Arabic language, Arabic origin that can refer to a male monarch, aristocratic, aristocrat, holder of high-ranking military or politic ...

Emir
of
Cyrenaica Cyrenaica ( ; ar, برقة, Barqah; grc-koi, Κυρηναϊκή παρχία Kurēnaïkḗ parkhíā after the city of Cyrene, Libya, Cyrene) is the eastern coastal region of Libya. Also known as ''Pentapolis'' ("Five Cities") in A ...

Cyrenaica
and then as the King of the United Kingdom of Libya (renamed as the
Kingdom of Libya The Kingdom of Libya ( ar, المملكة الليبية, lit=Libyan Kingdom, translit=Al-Mamlakah Al-Lībiyya; it, Regno di Libia; ber, ⵜⴰⴳⵍⴷⵉⵜ ⵏ ⵍⵉⴱⵢⴰ), known as the United Kingdom of Libya until 1963, came into ex ...
in 1963) from 1951 to 1969. He was the chief of the
Senussi The Senusiyya, Senussi or Sanusi ( ar, السنوسية ''as-Sanūssiyya'') are a Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may ...

Senussi
Muslim order. Idris was born into the Senussi Order. When his cousin,
Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi ( ar, أحمد الشريف السنوسي ) (1873, Jaghbub, Ottoman Empire (today Jaghbub, Libya Jaghbub ( ar, الجغبوب, it, Giarabub) is a remote desert village in the Al Jaghbub Oasis in the eastern Libyan Des ...
, abdicated as leader of the Order, Idris took his position. The Senussi campaign was taking place, with the British and Italians fighting the Order. Idris put an end to the hostilities and, through the
Modus vivendi of Acroma The ''modus vivendi'' of Acroma was a pair of agreements signed by the Senusiyya, Sanūsī Order with United Kingdom, Britain and Kingdom of Italy, Italy on 16 April 1917 at Acroma (ʿAkrama).E. E. Evans-Pritchard (1945), "The Sanusi of Cyrenaica", ...
, abandoned Ottoman protection. Between 1919 and 1920, Italy recognized Senussi control over most of Cyrenaica in exchange for the recognition of Italian sovereignty by Idris. Idris then led his Order in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the eastern part of the
Tripolitanian Republic Tripolitanian Republic (Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental c ...
. Following the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
, the
United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations System consists of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) ...
called for Libya to be granted independence. It established the
United Kingdom of Libya The Kingdom of Libya ( ar, المملكة الليبية; Libyan Kingdom; it, Regno di Libia), called the United Kingdom of Libya until 1963, came into existence upon independence on 24 December 1951 and lasted until a coup d'état A coup d ...
through the unification of
Cyrenaica Cyrenaica ( ; ar, برقة, Barqah; grc-koi, Κυρηναϊκή παρχία Kurēnaïkḗ parkhíā after the city of Cyrene, Libya, Cyrene) is the eastern coastal region of Libya. Also known as ''Pentapolis'' ("Five Cities") in A ...

Cyrenaica
,
Tripolitania Tripolitania ( ar, طرابلس '; Berber Berber or Berbers may refer to: Culture * Berbers Berbers or ''Imazighen'' ( ber, translit=Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: , ) are an ethnic group mostly concentrated ...

Tripolitania
and
Fezzan Fezzan ( , ; ber, ⴼⵣⵣⴰⵏ, Fezzan; ar, فزان, Fizzān; la, Phazania) is the southwestern region of modern . It is largely , but broken by mountains, uplands, and dry river valleys (s) in the north, where oases enable ancient towns an ...
, appointing Idris to rule it as King. Wielding significant political influence in the impoverished country, he banned political parties and in 1963 replaced Libya's federal system with a unitary state. He established links to the Western powers, allowing the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
and
United States The United States of America (U.S.A. or USA), commonly known as the United States (U.S. or US) or America, is a country Continental United States, primarily located in North America. It consists of 50 U.S. state, states, a Washington, D.C., ...

United States
to open military bases in the country in return for economic aid. After oil was discovered in Libya in 1959, he oversaw the emergence of a growing oil industry that rapidly aided economic growth. Idris' regime was weakened by growing Arab nationalist and Arab socialist sentiment in Libya as well as rising frustration at the country's high levels of corruption and close links with Western nations. While in
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
for medical treatment, King Idris was deposed in a 1969 ''coup d'état'' by army officers led by
Muammar Gaddafi Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, Modern Standard . Due to the lack of standardization of transcribing written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics L ...
.


Early life: 1889–1913

Born at Al-Jaghbub, the headquarters of the
Senussi The Senusiyya, Senussi or Sanusi ( ar, السنوسية ''as-Sanūssiyya'') are a Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may ...

Senussi
movement, on 12 March 1889 (although some sources give the year as 1890) the son of
Sayyid ''Sayyid'' (, ; ar, سيد ; ; meaning 'Lord', 'Master'; Arabic plural: ; feminine: ; ) is an honorific title denoting people accepted as descendants of the Prophets in Islam, Islamic prophet Muhammad and his cousin and son-in-law Ali ( ...

Sayyid
Muhammad al-Mahdi bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Senussi and his third wife Aisha bint Muqarrib al-Barasa, Idris was a grandson of Sayyid
Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi Muhammad ibn Ali as-Senussi in full Muḥammad ibn ʿAlī al-Sanūsī al-Mujāhirī al-Ḥasanī al-Idrīsī, (1787–1859) was an Algerian Muslim theologian and leader who founded of the Senussi mystical order in 1837. His militant mystical mo ...
, the founder of the Senussi
Muslim Muslims () are people who follow or practice Islam Islam (; ar, اَلْإِسْلَامُ, al-’Islām, "submission o God Oh God may refer to: * An exclamation; similar to "oh no", "oh yes", "oh my", "aw goodness", "ah gosh", ...

Muslim
Sufi Sufism ( ar, ٱلصُّوفِيَّة), also known as Tasawwuf (), is mysticism in Islam, "characterized ... y particularvalues, ritual practices, doctrines and institutions". It is variously defined as "Islamic mysticism",Martin Lings, ...

Sufi
Order and the Senussi tribe in North Africa. He became chief of the Senussi order in 1916 following the abdication of his cousin Sayyid
Ahmed Sharif es Senussi Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi ( ar, أحمد الشريف السنوسي ) (1873, Jaghbub, Ottoman Empire (today Jaghbub, Libya) – 10 March 1933, Medina, Saudi Arabia) was the supreme leader of the Senussi, Senussi order (1902–1933), although his le ...

Ahmed Sharif es Senussi
. He was recognized by the British under the new title "
emir Emir (; ar, أمير ' ), sometimes Romanization of Arabic, transliterated amir, amier, or ameer, is a word of Arabic language, Arabic origin that can refer to a male monarch, aristocratic, aristocrat, holder of high-ranking military or politic ...

emir
" of the territory of
Cyrenaica Cyrenaica ( ; ar, برقة, Barqah; grc-koi, Κυρηναϊκή παρχία Kurēnaïkḗ parkhíā after the city of Cyrene, Libya, Cyrene) is the eastern coastal region of Libya. Also known as ''Pentapolis'' ("Five Cities") in A ...

Cyrenaica
, a position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920. He was also installed as Emir of
Tripolitania Tripolitania ( ar, طرابلس '; Berber Berber or Berbers may refer to: Culture * Berbers Berbers or ''Imazighen'' ( ber, translit=Imaziɣen, ⵉⵎⴰⵣⵉⵖⵏ, ⵎⵣⵗⵏ; singular: , ) are an ethnic group mostly concentrated ...

Tripolitania
on 28 July 1922. Idris' family claimed descent from the Islamic prophet
Muhammad Muhammad ibn AbdullahHe is referred to by many appellations, including Messenger of Allah, The Prophet Muhammad, Allah's Apostle, Last Prophet of Islam, and others; there are also many variant spellings of Muhammad, such as Mohamet, Mohammed, ...

Muhammad
through his daughter,
Fatimah Fatimah bint Muhammad ( ar, فَاطِمَة ٱبْنَت مُحَمَّد, Fāṭimah bint Muḥammad, ; 605 CE/15 BH – died 28 August 632), commonly known as Fatimah al-Zahra ( ar, فَاطِمَة ٱلزَّهْرَاء, Fāṭimah al- ...

Fatimah
. The Senussi were a revivalist
Sunni Sunni Islam () is by far the largest branch Image:Tree Leaves.JPG, The branches and leaves of a tree. A branch ( or , ) or tree branch (sometimes referred to in botany as a ramus) is a woody structural member connected to but not part o ...
Islamic sect who were based largely in Cyrenaica, a region in modern eastern Libya. By the end of the nineteenth century the Senussi Order had established a form of government in Cyrenaica, unifying its tribes, controlling its
pilgrimage A pilgrimage is a journey, often into an unknown or foreign place, where a person goes in search of new or expanded meaning about their self, others, nature, or a higher good, through the experience. It can lead to a personal transformation, aft ...
and trade routes, and collecting taxes.The Ottoman Sultan Abdulhamid II sent his aide-de-camp Azmzade Sadik El Mueyyed to Jaghbub in 1886 and Kufra in 1895 to cultivate positive relations with the Senussi Movement and counter the West European scramble for Africa.


Head of the Senussi Order: 1916–22

After the ''
Regio Esercito The Royal Italian Army ( it, Regio Esercito, , Royal Army) was the land force An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on la ...
'' (the Italian Royal Army) invaded Cyrenaica in 1913 as part of their wider invasion of Libya, the Senussi Order fought back against them. When the Order's leader,
Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi ( ar, أحمد الشريف السنوسي ) (1873, Jaghbub, Ottoman Empire (today Jaghbub, Libya Jaghbub ( ar, الجغبوب, it, Giarabub) is a remote desert village in the Al Jaghbub Oasis in the eastern Libyan Des ...
, abdicated his position, he was replaced by Idris, who was his cousin. Pressured to do so by the
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ', ; or '; )info page on bookat Martin Luther University) // CITED: p. 36 (PDF p. 38/338). was an empire that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Northern Africa between the 14th ...
, Ahmed had pursued armed attacks against British military forces stationed in the neighbouring
Sultanate of Egypt The Sultanate of Egypt () was the short-lived protectorate A protectorate is a state that is controlled and protected by another sovereign state. It is a dependent territory A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometim ...
(formerly known, until December 1914, as the
Khedivate of Egypt The Khedivate of Egypt (, ; ota, خدیویت مصر ') was an autonomous tributary state Ayutthaya from its vassal states in the Malay Peninsula">Ayutthaya_Kingdom.html" ;"title="Bunga mas, a form of tribute sent to the King of Ayutthaya K ...
). On taking power, Idris put a stop to these attacks. Instead he established a tacit alliance with the
British Empire The British Empire was composed of the dominions, Crown colony, colonies, protectorates, League of Nations mandate, mandates, and other Dependent territory, territories ruled or administered by the United Kingdom and its predecessor states. ...

British Empire
, which would last for half a century and accord his Order ''de facto'' diplomatic status. Using the British as intermediaries, Idris led the Order into negotiations with the Italians in July 1916. These resulted in two agreements, at al-Zuwaytina in April 1916 and at Akrama in April 1917. The latter of these treaties left most of inland Cyrenaica under the control of the Senussi Order. Relations between the Senussi Order and the newly established
Tripolitanian Republic Tripolitanian Republic (Arabic Arabic (, ' or , ' or ) is a Semitic language The Semitic languages are a branch of the Afroasiatic language family originating in the Middle East The Middle East is a list of transcontinental c ...
were acrimonious. The Senussi attempted to militarily extend their power into eastern Tripolitania, resulting in a pitched battle at
Bani Walid Bani Walid (Anglicized: ; ar, بني وليد ', Libyan pronunciation: ) is a town in Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a country in the Maghreb regi ...
in which the Senussi were forced to withdraw back into Cyrenaica. At the end of the
First World War World War I, often abbreviated as WWI or WW1, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainmen ...
, the Ottoman Empire ceded their claims over Libya to the
Kingdom of Italy The Kingdom of Italy ( it, Regno d'Italia) was a state that existed from 1861—when King Victor Emmanuel II en, Victor Emmanuel Mario Albert Eugene Ferdinand Thomas , house = House of Savoy, Savoy , father = Charles Albert o ...
.
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
, however, was facing serious economic, social, and political problems domestically, and was not prepared to re-launch its military activities in Libya. It issued statutes known as the ''Legge Fondamentale'', for the Tripolitanian Republic in June 1919 and Cyrenaica in October 1919. These were a compromise by which all Libyans were accorded the right to joint Libyan-Italian citizenship, while each province was to have its own parliament and governing council. The Senussi were largely happy with this arrangement and Idris visited
Rome , established_title = Founded , established_date = 753 BC , founder = King Romulus , image_map = Map of comune of Rome (metropolitan city of Capital Rome, region Lazio, Italy).svg , map_caption = The te ...

Rome
as part of the celebrations to mark the promulgation of the settlement. In October 1920, further negotiations between Italy and Cyrenaica resulted in the Accord of al-Rajma, in which Idris was given the title of Emir of Cyrenaica and permitted to administer autonomously the oases around
Kufra Kufra () is a basinBertarelli (1929), p. 514. and oasis group in the Kufra District of southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a cou ...
,
Jalu Jalu, Jallow, or Gialo ( ar, جالو) is a town in the Al Wahat District Al Wahat ( ar, الواحات ', en, The Oases), occasionally spelt ''Al Wahad'' or ''Al Wahah'' ( en, The Oasis) is one of the districts A district is a type of admin ...

Jalu
,
Jaghbub Jaghbub ( ar, الجغبوب) is a remote desert village in the Al Jaghbub Oasis in the eastern Libyan Desert. It is actually closer to the Egyptian town of Siwa Oasis, Siwa than to any Libyan town of note. The oasis is located in Butnan District ...
,
Awjila Awjila (Awjila language, Berber: ''Awilan'', ''Awjila'', ''Awgila''; ar, أوجلة; Latin: ''Augila'') is an oasis town in the Al Wahat District in the Cyrenaica region of northeastern Libya. Since classical times it has been known as a place whe ...
, and
Ajdabiya Ajdabiya ( ; ar, أجدابيا, Aǧdābiyā) is a town in and capital of the Al Wahat District in northeastern Libya. It is some south of Benghazi. From 2001 to 2007 it was part of and capital of the Ajdabiya District. The town is divided into ...
. As part of the Accord he was given a monthly stipend by the Italian government, who agreed to take responsibility for policing and administration of areas under Senussi control. The Accord also stipulated that Idris must fulfill the requirements of the ''Legge Fondamentale'' by disbanding the Cyrenaican military units, but he did not comply with this. By the end of 1921, relations between the Senussi Order and the Italian government had again deteriorated. Following the death of Tripolitanian leader Ramadan Asswehly in August 1920, the Republic descended into civil war. Many tribal leaders in the region recognized that this discord was weakening the region's chances of attaining full autonomy from Italy, and in November 1920 they met in
Gharyan Gharyan is a city in northwestern Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a country in the Maghreb region in North Africa bordered by the Mediterranean Sea to th ...
to bring an end to the violence. In January 1922 they agreed to request that Idris extend the Emirate of Cyrenaica into Tripolitania in order to bring stability; they presented a formal document with this request on 28 July 1922. Idris' advisers were divided on whether he should accept the offer or not. Doing so would contravene the al-Rajma Agreement and would damage relations with the Italian government, who opposed the political unification of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania as being against their interests. Nevertheless, in November 1922 Idris agreed to the proposal.


Exile: 1922–1951

Following the agreement, Emir Idris feared that Italy—under its new Fascist leader
Benito Mussolini
Benito Mussolini
—would militarily retaliate against the Senussi Order, and so he went into exile in the newly established
Kingdom of Egypt The Kingdom of Egypt ( ar, المملكة المصرية, Al-Mamlaka Al-Miṣreyya, The Egyptian Kingdom) was the legal form of the Egyptian state during the latter period of the Muhammad Ali dynasty#REDIRECT Muhammad Ali dynasty The Muham ...

Kingdom of Egypt
(formerly known as the
Sultanate of Egypt The Sultanate of Egypt () was the short-lived protectorate A protectorate is a state that is controlled and protected by another sovereign state. It is a dependent territory A dependent territory, dependent area, or dependency (sometim ...
) in December 1922. Soon, the Italian reconquest of Libya began, and by the end of 1922 the only effective anti-colonial resistance to the occupation was concentrated in the Cyrenaican hinterlands. The Italians subjugated the Libyan people; Cyrenaica's livestock was decimated, a large portion of its population was interned in concentration camps, and between 1930 and 1931 an estimated 12,000 Cyrenaicans were executed by the ''
Regio Esercito The Royal Italian Army ( it, Regio Esercito, , Royal Army) was the land force An army (from Latin ''arma'' "arms, weapons" via Old French ''armée'', "armed" eminine, ground force or land force is a fighting force that fights primarily on la ...
'' (Italian Royal Army). The Italian government implemented a policy of "demographic colonization", by which tens of thousands of Italians were relocated to Libya, largely to establish farms. Following the outbreak of the
Second World War World War II or the Second World War, often abbreviated as WWII or WW2, was a global war A world war is "a war War is an intense armed conflict between states State may refer to: Arts, entertainment, and media Literatur ...
in September 1939, Idris supported the
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
—which was now at war with Italy—in the hope of ridding his country of Italian occupation. He argued that even if the Italians were victorious, the situation for the Libyan people would be no different than it had been before the war. Delegates from both the Cyrenaicans and Tripolitanians agreed that Idris should conclude agreements with the British that they would gain independence in return for support during the war. Privately, Idris did not promote the idea of Libyan independence to the British, instead suggesting that it become a British protectorate akin to
Transjordan
Transjordan
. A Libyan Arab Force, consisting of five infantry battalions made up of volunteers, was established to aid the British war effort. With the exception of one military engagement near to
Benghazi () , ; it, Bengasi; tr, Bingazi; ber, Bernîk, script=Latn; also: ''Bengasi'', ''Benghasi'', ''Banghāzī'', ''Binghāzī'', ''Bengazi''; grc, Βερενίκη (') and '., group=note (''lit. Son of he'') is a city in . Located on the in t ...
, this force's role did not extend beyond support and gendarmerie duties. After the defeat of the Italian armies, Libya was left under the military control of British and French forces. They governed the area until 1949 according to the
Hague Convention of 1907 The Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907 are a series of international treaties A treaty is a formal, legally binding written agreement between actors in international law International law, also known as public international law and law o ...
. In 1946, a National Congress was established to lay the groundwork for independence; it was dominated by the Senussi Order. Under British and French pressure, Italy relinquished its claim of sovereignty over the country in 1947, although still hoping that they would be permitted a trusteeship over Tripolitania. The European powers drew up the Bevin-Sforza plan, which proposed that France retain a ten-year trusteeship in Fezzan, the UK in Cyrenaica, and Italy in Tripolitania. After the plans were published in May 1949, they generated violent demonstrations in Tripolitania and Cyrenaica and drew protests from the United States,
Soviet Union The Soviet Union,. officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics. (USSR),. was a that spanned during its existence from 1922 to 1991. It was nominally a of multiple national ; in practice and were highly until its final years. The ...
, and other Arab states. In September 1948, the question of Libya's future was brought to the
United Nations General Assembly The United Nations General Assembly (UNGA or GA; french: link=no, Assemblée générale, AG) is one of the six principal organs of the United Nations The United Nations System consists of the United Nations The United Nations (UN) ...
, which rejected the principles of the Bevin-Sforza plan, instead indicating support for full independence. At the time neither the UK nor France supported the principle of Libyan unification, with France being keen to retain colonial control of Fezzan. In 1949 the British unilaterally declared that they would leave Cyrenaica and grant it independence under the control of Idris; by doing so they believed that it would remain under their own sphere of influence. Similarly, France established a provisional government in Fezzan in February 1950. In November 1949, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on Libyan independence, stipulating that it must come into being by January 1952. The resolution called for Libya to become a single state led by Idris, who was to be declared king of Libya. He had been reluctant to accept the position. Both the United Kingdom and the United States—who were committed to preventing any growth in Soviet influence in the southern Mediterranean—agreed to this for their own
Cold War The Cold War was a period of geopolitical Geopolitics (from Greek#REDIRECT Greek Greek may refer to: Greece Anything of, from, or related to Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, , ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country loc ...
strategic reasons. They recognised that while they would be able to establish military bases in an independent Libyan state sympathetic to their interests, they would have been unable to do so were Libya to have entered UN-sponsored trusteeship. The Tripolitanians—largely united under Selim Muntasser and the United National Front—agreed to this plan in order to avoid further European colonial rule. The concept of a kingdom would be alien to Libyan society, where the loyalties to the family, tribe, and region—or alternately to the global Muslim community—were far stronger than to any concept of Libyan nationhood.


King of Libya: 1951–1969

On 24 December 1951, Idris announced the establishment of the
United Kingdom of Libya The Kingdom of Libya ( ar, المملكة الليبية; Libyan Kingdom; it, Regno di Libia), called the United Kingdom of Libya until 1963, came into existence upon independence on 24 December 1951 and lasted until a coup d'état A coup d ...
from the al-Manar Palace in Benghazi. The country had a population of approximately one million, the majority of whom were Arabs, but with Berber, Tebu,
Sephardi Jewish Sephardi Jews, also known as Sephardic Jews, ''Sephardim'',, Modern Hebrew: ''Sefaraddim'', Tiberian Hebrew, Tiberian: Səp̄āraddîm, also , ''Ye'hude Sepharad'', lit. "The Jews of Spain", es, Judíos sefardíes (or sefarditas), pt, Judeus se ...
, Greek, Turkish, and Italian minorities. The newly established state faced serious problems; in 1951, Libya was one of the world's poorest countries. Much of its infrastructure had been destroyed by war, it had very little trade and high unemployment, and both a 40% infant mortality rate and a 94% illiteracy rate. Only 1% of Libya's land mass was arable, with another 3–4% being used for pastoral farming. Although the three provinces had been united, they shared little common aspiration. The Kingdom was established along
federal Federal or foederal (archaic) may refer to: Politics General *Federal monarchy, a federation of monarchies *Federation, or ''Federal state'' (federal system), a type of government characterized by both a central (federal) government and states or ...
lines, something that Cyrenaica and Fezzan had insisted upon, fearing that they would otherwise be dominated by Tripolitania, where two-thirds of the Libyan population lived. Conversely, the Tripolitanians had largely favoured a unitary state, believing that it would allow the government to act more effectively in the
national interest National Interest is a rationality of governing referring to a sovereign state A sovereign state is a political entity A polity is an identifiable political entity—any group of people who have a collective identity, who are organized by som ...
and fearing that a federal system would result in further British and French domination of Libya. The three provinces had their own legislative authorities; while that of Fezzan was composed entirely of elected officials, those of Cyrenaica and Tripolitania contained a mix of elected and non-elected representatives. This constitutional framework left Libya with a weak central government and strong provincial autonomy. The governments of successive Prime Ministers tried to push through economic policies but found them hampered by the differing provinces. There remained a persistent distrust between Cyrenaica and Tripolitania. Benghazi and Tripoli were appointed as joint capital cities, with the country's parliament moving between the two. The city of Bayda also became a ''de facto'' summer capital as Idris moved there. According to the reporter Jonathan Bearman, King Idris was "nominally a constitutional monarch" but in practice was "a spiritual leader with autocratic temporal power", with Libya being a "monarchical dictatorship" rather than a
constitutional monarchy A constitutional monarchy, parliamentary monarchy, or democratic monarchy is a form of monarchy in which the monarch exercises his authority in accordance with a constitution and is not alone in deciding. Constitutional monarchies differ from ...
or
parliamentary democracy A parliamentary system or parliamentary democracy is a system of democracy, democratic government, governance of a sovereign state, state (or subordinate entity) where the Executive (government), executive derives its democratic legitimacy fr ...
. The new constitution granted Idris significant personal power, and he remained a crucial player in the country's political system. Idris ruled via a palace cabinet, namely his royal ''
diwan
diwan
'', which contained a ''chef de cabinet'', two deputies, and senior advisers. This ''diwan'' worked in consultation with the federal government to determine the policies of the Libyan state. King Idris was a self-effacing devout Muslim, he refused to allow his portrait to be featured on Libyan currency and also insisted that nothing should be named after him except the Tripoli Idris Airport. Idris' regime soon banned political parties from operating in the country, claiming that they exacerbated internal instability. From 1952 onward, all candidates for election were government nominees. In 1954, the Prime Minister
Mustafa Ben Halim Mustafa Ahmed Ben Halim ( ar, مصطفى احمد بن حليم; 29 January 1921 – 7 December 2021) was a Libyan politician and businessman who served in a number of leadership positions in the Kingdom of Libya from 1953 to 1960. Ben Halim wa ...

Mustafa Ben Halim
suggested that Libya be converted from a federal to a unitary system and that Idris be proclaimed President for Life. Idris recognised that this would deal with the problems caused by federalism and would put a stop to the intrigues among the Senussi family surrounding his succession. He asked Ben Halim to produce a formal draft for these plans, but the idea was dropped amid opposition from Cyrenaican tribal chiefs. Under King Idris, Libya found itself within the Western sphere of influence. It became the recipient of Western expertise and aid, and by the end of 1959 it had received over $100 million of aid from the United States, being the single biggest per capita recipient of American aid. U.S. companies would also play a leading role in the development of the Libyan oil industry. This support was provided on a ''quid pro quo'' basis, and in return Libya granted the United States and United Kingdom usage of the
Wheelus Air Base Wheelus Air Base was a United States Air Force base located in British Military Administration (Libya), British-occupied Libya and the Kingdom of Libya from 1943 to 1970. At one time it was the largest US military facility outside the US. It had ...
and the al-Adem Air Base. This reliance on the Western nations placed Libya at odds with the growing Arab nationalist and Arab socialist sentiment across the Arab world. The Arab nationalist sentiment promoted by ''
Radio Cairo Egyptian Radio also known as the Egyptian Radio's General Program (إذاعة البرنامج العام transliterated as Iza'at El-Bernameg Al-Aam) also popularly known as Radio Cairo (in Arabic language, Arabic إذاعة القاهرة transli ...
'' found a particularly receptive audience in Tripolitania. In July 1967, anti-Western riots broke out in Tripoli and Benghazi to protest the West's support of Israel against the Arab states in the
Six-Day War The Six-Day War (; ar, النكسة, translit=an-Naksah, lit=The Setback or ), also known as the June War, the 1967 Arab–Israeli War or the Third Arab–Israeli War, was an armed conflict fought from 5 to 10 June 1967 between Israel and a ...
. Many oil workers across Libya went on strike in solidarity with the Arab forces fighting Israel. During the 1950s, a number of foreign companies began prospecting for oil in Libya, with the country's government passing the Minerals Law of 1953 and then the Petroleum Law of 1955 to regulate this process. In 1959 oil was discovered in Libya. The 1955 law created conditions that enabled small oil companies to drill alongside larger corporations; each concession had a low entry fee, with rents only increasing significantly after the eighth year of drilling. This created a competitive atmosphere that prevented any one company from becoming crucial to the country's oil operation, although it had the downside of incentivising companies to produce as much oil as possible in as quick a period as possible. Libya's oil fields fuelled rapidly growing demand in Europe, and by 1967 it was supplying a third of the oil entering the West European market. Within a few years, Libya had grown to become the world's fourth largest oil producer. Oil production provided a huge boost to the Libyan economy; whereas the per capita annual income in 1951 had been $25–35, by 1969 it was $2000. By 1961, the oil industry was exerting the greater influence over Libyan politics than any other issue. In 1962, Libya joined the
Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC, ) is an intergovernmental organization or cartel of countries. Founded on 14 September 1960 in Baghdad by the first five members (Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and Venezuela) ...

Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries
(OPEC). In ensuing years the Libyan state furthered its control over the industry, establishing a Ministry of Petroleum Affairs in 1963 and then the Libyan National Oil Company. In 1968 they established the Libyan Petroleum Company (LIPETCO) and announced that any further concession agreements would have to be joint ventures with LIPETCO. Libya experienced rampant corruption and favouritism. A number of high-profile corruption scandals impacted on the highest levels of Idris' government. In June 1960 Idris issued a public letter in which he condemned this corruption, claiming that bribery and nepotism "will destroy the very existence of the state and its good reputation both at home and abroad". In April 1963, King Idris abolished Libya's federal system. Both the provincial legislative assemblies and the provincial judicial systems were abolished. Doing so allowed him to concentrate economic and administrative planning at a centralised national level, and thenceforth all taxes and oil revenues were directed straight to the central government. As part of this reform, the "United Kingdom of Libya" was renamed the "Kingdom of Libya". This reform was not popular among many of Libya's provinces, which saw their power curtailed. According to the historian Dirk Vandewalle, this change was "the single most critical political act during the monarchy's tenure in office". The reform handed far greater political power to Idris than he had held previously. By the mid-1960s, Idris began to increasingly retreat from active involvement in the country's governance. In 1955, failing to have produced a male heir, he convinced Queen Fatimah, his wife of 20 years, to let him marry a second wife, Aliya Abdel Lamloun, daughter of a wealthy Bedouin chief. The second marriage took place on 5 June 1955. Both wives then became pregnant, and each bore him a son.


Overthrow and exile

King Idris used the oil money to strengthen family and tribal alliances that would support the monarchy, rather than using it to build up the economic or political apparatus of the state. According to Vandewalle, King Idris "showed no real interest in ruling the three provinces as a unified political community". Idris' regime had little support outside Cyrenaica. It had been weakened by endemic corruption and cronyism in the country, and growing Arab nationalist sentiment following the 1967
Six-Day War The Six-Day War (; ar, النكسة, translit=an-Naksah, lit=The Setback or ), also known as the June War, the 1967 Arab–Israeli War or the Third Arab–Israeli War, was an armed conflict fought from 5 to 10 June 1967 between Israel and a ...
. On 1 September 1969, while King Idris was in
Turkey Turkey ( tr, Türkiye ), officially the Republic of Turkey, is a country located mainly on Anatolia Anatolia,, tr, Anadolu Yarımadası), and the Anatolian plateau. also known as Asia Minor, is a large peninsula in Western Asia an ...

Turkey
for medical treatment, he was deposed in a
coup d'état A coup d'état (; French for "blow of state"), often shortened to coup in English, (also known as an overthrow) is a seizure and removal of a government and its powers. Typically, it is an illegal, unconstitutional seizure of power by a politic ...
by a group of Libyan Army officers under the leadership of
Muammar Gaddafi Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi, Modern Standard . Due to the lack of standardization of transcribing written and regionally pronounced Arabic, Gaddafi's name has been romanized Romanization or romanisation, in linguistics L ...
. The monarchy was abolished and a republic proclaimed. The coup pre-empted King Idris's intended abdication and the succession of his heir the following day. From Turkey, he and the Queen traveled to
Kamena Vourla Kamena Vourla ( el, Καμένα Βούρλα, lit=Burnt Juncaceae, Rushes, ) is a town and a former municipality in Phthiotis, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Molos-Agios Konstantinos, of which it is ...
,
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...
, by ship and went into exile in Egypt. After the 1969 coup, King Idris was put on trial ''in absentia'' in the Libyan People's Court and sentenced to death in November 1971. Muammar Gaddafi's regime portrayed King Idris's administration as having been weak, inept, corrupt, anachronistic, and lacking in nationalist credentials, a presentation of it that would come to be widely adopted. In 1983, at age 94, King Idris died in a hospital in the district of
Dokki Dokki ( ar, الدقي  , is a district in Giza Giza (; sometimes spelled ''Gizah ''or ''Jizah''; ar, الجيزة ', ) is the list of cities and towns in Egypt, second-largest city in Egypt after Cairo and List of cities in Africa by p ...
in
Cairo Cairo ( ; ar, القاهرة, al-Qāhirah, , Coptic Coptic may refer to: Afro-Asia * Copts, an ethnoreligious group mainly in the area of modern Egypt but also in Sudan and Libya * Coptic language, a Northern Afro-Asiatic language spoken in E ...

Cairo
. He was buried at Al-Baqi' Cemetery,
Medina Medina,, ', "the radiant city"; or , ', (), "the city" officially Al Madinah Al Munawwarah (, ), commonly simplified as Madīnah or Madinah (, ), is the second Holiest sites in Islam, holiest city in Islam and the Capital city, capital of the Me ...

Medina
,
Saudi Arabia (''Shahada'') , national_anthem = "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia, " "National Anthem of Saudi Arabia" , image_map = Saudi Arabia (orthographic projection).svg , capital = Riyadh , coordinates ...

Saudi Arabia
.


Legacy

According to Vandewalle, King Idris' monarchy "started Libya on the road of political exclusion of its citizens, and of a profound de-politicization" that still characterised the country in the first years of the twenty-first century. He informed the US ambassador to Libya and an early academic researcher that he had not truly wanted to rule over a unified Libya. Muammar Gaddafi's policies with regard to the oil industry would also be technocratic and bore many similarities with those of King Idris. Although the King died in exile and most Libyans were born after his reign, during the
Libyan Civil War Libyans (ليبيون) and their population density, ethnicity, education level, health of the populace, economic status, religious affiliations and other aspects of the Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Lib ...

Libyan Civil War
, many demonstrators opposing Gaddafi carried portraits of the King, especially in Cyrenaica. The tricolour flag used during the era of the monarchy was frequently used as a symbol of the revolution and was re-adopted by the
National Transitional Council The National Transitional Council of Libya ( ar, المجلس الوطني الإنتقالي '), sometimes known as the Transitional National Council, was the ''de facto'' government of Libya for a period during and after the Libyan Civil War ...
as the official
flag of Libya The flag of Libya was originally introduced in 1951, following the creation of the Kingdom of Libya. It was designed by Omar Faiek Shennib and approved by Idris of Libya, King Idris Al Senussi who comprised the UN delegation representing the thr ...

flag of Libya
.


Personal life

Vandewalle characterised King Idris as "a scholarly individual whose entire life would be marked by a reluctance to engage in politics". For Vandewalle, Idris was a "well meaning but reluctant ruler", as well as "a pious, deeply religious, and self-effacing man". The Libyan Prime Minister Ben Halim stated his view that "I was sure... that
dris
dris
sincerely wanted reform, but I knew from experience that he became hesitant when he felt that such reform would affect the interests of his entourage. He would gradually pull back until he abandoned the reform plans, moved by the whisperings of his entourage." King Idris married five times: # At
Kufra Kufra () is a basinBertarelli (1929), p. 514. and oasis group in the Kufra District of southeastern Cyrenaica in Libya Libya (; ar, ليبيا, Lībīyā), officially the State of Libya, ( ar, دولة ليبيا, Dawlat Lībīyā) is a cou ...
, 1896/1897, his cousin, Sayyida Aisha binti Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif al-Sanussi (1873 Jaghbub – 1905 or 1907 Kufra), eldest daughter of Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Sanussi, by his fourth wife, Fatima, daughter of 'Umar bin Muhammad al-Ashhab, of Fezzan, by whom he had one son who died in infancy; # At Kufra, 1907 (divorced 1922), his cousin, Sakina, daughter of Muhammad as-Sharif, by whom he had one son and one daughter, both of whom died in infancy; # At Kufra, 1911 (divorced 1915), Nafisa, daughter of Ahmad Abu al-Qasim al-Isawi, by whom he had one son who died in infancy; # At Siwa, Egypt, 1931, his cousin, Sayyida Fatima al-Shi'fa binti Sayyid Ahmad as-Sharif al-Sanussi, Fatimah el-Sharif (1911 Kufra – 3 October 2009, Cairo, buried in Jannat al-Baqi, Medina, Saudi Arabia), fifth daughter of Field Marshal Sayyid Ahmad as-Sharif Pasha bin Sayyid Muhammad as-Sharif al-Senussi, 3rd Grand Seussi, by his second wife, Khadija, daughter of Ahmad al-Rifi, by whom he had one son who died in infancy; # At the Libyan Embassy, Cairo, 6 June 1955 (divorced 20 May 1958), Aliya Khan (title), Khanum Effendi (1913 Guney, Egypt), daughter of Abdul-Qadir Lamlun Asadi Pasha. For two short periods (1911–1922 and 1955–1958), King Idris kept two wives, marrying his fifth wife with a view to providing a direct heir. King Idris fathered five sons and one daughter, none of whom survived childhood. He and Fatima adopted a daughter, Suleima, an Algerian orphan, who survived them.


Honours

Idris was Grand Master (order), grand master of the following Libyan orders: * Order of Idris I * High Order of Sayyid Muhammad ibn Ali al-Senussi * Order of Independence (Libya), Order of Independence * Al-Senussi National Service Star * Al-Senussi Army Liberation Medal He was a recipient of the following non-Libyan honours: * Imperial Order of the House of Osman 1st class (
Ottoman Empire The Ottoman Empire (; ', ; or '; )info page on bookat Martin Luther University) // CITED: p. 36 (PDF p. 38/338). was an empire that controlled much of Southeastern Europe, Western Asia, and North Africa, Northern Africa between the 14th ...
) (1918) * Nobility (Nishan-i-Majidieh) 2nd class (Ottoman Empire) (1918) * Collar (Order of Knighthood), Collar of the Order of al-Hussein bin Ali (Jordan) * Honorary Knight Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire (1954 – KBE in 1946) (
United Kingdom The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain,Usage is mixed. The Guardian' and Telegraph' use Britain as a synonym for the United Kingdom. Some prefer to use Britain as shorth ...

United Kingdom
) * Collar of the Order of Muhammad (Morocco) * Grand Cordon of the Order of the Nile (Kingdom of Egypt, Egypt) * Grand Cross of the Legion of Honour (France) * Grand Cordon of the Order of Independence (Tunisia) * Grand Cordon of the National Order of the Cedar (Lebanon) * Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (
Italy Italy ( it, Italia ), officially the Italian Republic ( it, Repubblica Italiana, links=no ), is a country consisting of a peninsula delimited by the Alps The Alps ; german: Alpen ; it, Alpi ; rm, Alps; sl, Alpe ) are the highest ...

Italy
) * Grand Cross of the Order of the Redeemer (
Greece Greece ( el, Ελλάδα, Elláda, ), officially the Hellenic Republic, is a country located in Southeastern Europe Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe () is a geographical subregion A subregion is a part of a larger region In geogr ...
)


Ancestry


References


Footnotes


Bibliography

* * * * * *


External links

* * , - , - {{DEFAULTSORT:Idris 01 of Libya 1889 births 1983 deaths Heads of state of Libya Leaders ousted by a coup Libyan exiles Libyan Muslims Libyan people of Algerian descent Libyan prisoners sentenced to death People sentenced to death in absentia Prisoners sentenced to death by Libya Senussi dynasty World War II political leaders Honorary Knights Grand Cross of the Order of the British Empire Grand Croix of the Légion d'honneur Knights Grand Cross of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic Grand Cordons of the National Order of the Cedar Kings of Libya Libyan emigrants to Egypt Libyan politicians convicted of crimes Libyan royalty Muslim monarchs Dethroned monarchs 19th-century Arabs 20th-century Libyan people Rulers of Cyrenaica Hashemite people Burials at Jannat al-Baqī