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Muammar Gaddafi
مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي
Muammar al-Gaddafi at the AU summit.jpg
Muammar al-Gaddafi at an African Union Summit in 2009
Leader and Guide of the Revolution
In office
1 September 1969 – 23 August 2011
Prime Minister
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Position abolished
Secretary General of the General People's Congress of Libya
In office
2 March 1977 – 2 March 1979
Prime Minister Abdul Ati al-Obeidi
Preceded by Position established
Succeeded by Abdul Ati al-Obeidi
Prime Minister of Libya
In office
16 January 1970 – 16 July 1972
Preceded by Mahmud Sulayman al-Maghribi
Succeeded by Abdessalam Jalloud
Chairman of the Revolutionary Command Council of Libya
In office
1 September 1969 – 2 March 1977
Prime Minister Mahmud Sulayman al-Maghribi
Abdessalam Jalloud
Abdul Ati al-Obeidi
Preceded by Idris
Succeeded by Position abolished
Chairperson of the African Union
In office
2 February 2009 – 31 January 2010
Preceded by Jakaya Kikwete
Succeeded by Bingu wa Mutharika
Personal details
Born c. 1940-43
Qasr Abu Hadi, Italian Libya
Died October 20, 2011(2011-10-20) (aged c. 69)
Sirt, Libya
Spouse(s) Fatiha al-Nuri (divorced)
Safia Farkash
(m. 1970–2011, his death)
  • Sons:
  • Muhammad (b. 1970)
  • Saif al-Islam (b. 1972)
  • Al-Saadi (b. 1973)
  • Hannibal (b. 1976)
  • Moatessem-Billal (b. 1977)
  • Saif al-Arab (b. 1982 – d. 2011 (claimed))
  • Khamis (1983)
  • Milad (adopted, d.1986) (death unproven d.1986) (death unproven)
Military service
Allegiance Libya Kingdom of Libya (1961–69)
Libya Libyan Arab Republic (1969–77)
Libya Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (1977–2011)
Branch/service Libyan Army
Years of service 1961–2011
Rank Colonel
Commands Commander-in-chief, Libyan Armed Forces
Battles/wars Libyan–Egyptian War
Chadian–Libyan conflict
Uganda–Tanzania War
2011 Libyan civil war

Muammar Muhammad Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi(Arabic: مُعَمَّر القَذَّافِي Muʿammar al-Qaḏḏāfī ) (c. 1942 - 20 October 2011) was a Libyan politician. He was the ruler of Libya from 1969 to 2011.

Early life

Muammar Mohammed Abu Minyar al-Gaddafi was born near Qasr Abu Hadi, a rural area outside the town of Sirte in the deserts of Tripolitania, western Libya. Gaddafi was the only son of his parents and the youngest of four siblings. His family came from a small, relatively uninfluential tribe called the Qadhadhfa, who were Arab in heritage. His mother was named Aisha bin Niran (died 1978), and his father, Mohammad Abdul Salam bin Hamed bin Mohammad, was known as Abu Meniar (died 1985); the latter earned a meager subsistence as a goat and camel herder.

Like other contemporary nomadic Bedouin tribes, the family were illiterate and did not keep any birth records. Many biographers have used 7 June; however, his birthday is not known with certainty and sources have set it in 1942 or the spring of 1943.

From childhood, Gaddafi was aware of the involvement of European colonial powers in Libya; his nation was occupied by Italy, and during the North African Campaign of the Second World War it witnessed conflict between Italian and British forces. According to later claims, Gaddafi's paternal grandfather, Abdessalam Bouminyar, was killed by the Italian Army during the Italian invasion of 1911. At the end of the Second World War in 1945, Libya was occupied by British and French forces. Britain and France considered dividing the nation between their empires, but the General Assembly of the United Nations (UN) decided that the country was to be granted political independence, and in 1951 created the United Kingdom of Libya, a federal state under the leadership of a pro-Western monarch, Idris, who banned political parties and centralized power in his own hands.

Gaddafi's earliest education was of a religious nature, imparted by a local Islamic teacher. Subsequently, moving to nearby Sirte to attend elementary school, he progressed through six grades in four years. Education in Libya was not free, but his father thought it would greatly benefit his son despite the financial strain. During the week Gaddafi slept in a mosque, and only at weekends and holidays walked 20 miles (32 km) to visit his parents. Even though Gaddafi's father was not educated, he made great sacrifices to send his son to school. As an impoverished bedouin, he faced bullying and discrimination from his city-dwelling classmates. However, he had many Egyptian teachers who informed him of the dramatic events occurring in their homeland. From Sirte, he and his family moved to the market town of Sabha in Fezzan, south-central Libya, where his father worked as a caretaker for a tribal leader while Muammar attended secondary school.

Ruler of Libya

Gaddafi briefly studied history at the University of Libya in Benghazi before dropping out to join the military in 1961. The military was one of the only ways for lower class Libyans like him to rise in social status. Within the military, he founded a revolutionary group which deposed the Western-backed Senussi monarchy of Idris in a 1969 coup. Having taken power, Gaddafi converted Libya into a republic governed by his Revolutionary Command Council. Ruling by decree, he deported Libya's Italian population and ejected its Western military bases. Strengthening ties to Arab nationalist governments—particularly Gamal Abdel Nasser's Egypt—he unsuccessfully advocated pan-Arab political union. An Islamic modernist, he introduced sharia as the basis for the legal system and promoted "Islamic socialism". He nationalized the oil industry and used the increasing state revenues to bolster the military, fund foreign revolutionaries, and implement social programs emphasizing house-building, healthcare and education projects. In 1973, he initiated a "Popular Revolution" with the formation of Basic People's Congresses, presented as a system of direct democracy, but retained personal control over major decisions. He outlined his Third International Theory that year in The Green Book.

Gaddafi transformed Libya into a new socialist state called a Jamahiriya ("state of the masses") in 1977. He officially adopted a symbolic role in governance but remained head of both the military and the Revolutionary Committees responsible for policing and suppressing dissent. During the 1970s and 1980s, Libya's unsuccessful border conflicts with Egypt and Chad, support for foreign militants, and alleged responsibility for bombings of Pan Am Flight 103 and UTA Flight 772 left it increasingly isolated on the world stage. A particularly hostile relationship developed with Israel, the United States and the United Kingdom, resulting in the 1986 U.S. bombing of Libya and United Nations–imposed economic sanctions. From 1999, Gaddafi shunned pan-Arabism, and encouraged pan-Africanism and rapprochement with Western nations; he was Chairperson of the African Union from 2009 to 2010. Amid the 2011 Arab Spring, protests against widespread corruption and unemployment broke out in eastern Libya. The situation descended into civil war, in which NATO intervened militarily on the side of the anti-Gaddafist National Transitional Council (NTC). Gaddafi's government was overthrown; he retreated to Sirte only to be captured and killed by NTC militants on 20 October 2011.

A highly divisive figure, Gaddafi dominated Libya's politics for four decades and was the subject of a pervasive cult of personality. He was decorated with various awards and praised for his anti-imperialist stance, support for Arab—and then African—unity, as well as for significant development to the country following the discovery of oil reserves. Conversely, many Libyans strongly opposed Gaddafi's social and economic reforms; he was posthumously accused of various human rights violations. He was condemned by many as a dictator whose authoritarian administration systematically violated human rights and financed global terrorism in the region and abroad.


Gaddafi poster Ghadames
A poster of Gaddafi in Ghadames.
13th anniversary of the Revolution
13th Anniversary of 1 September Revolution on postage stamp, Libya 1982

International reactions to Gaddafi's death were divided. U.S. President Barack Obama stated that it meant that "the shadow of tyranny over Libya has been lifted," while UK Prime Minister David Cameron stated that he was "proud" of his country's role in overthrowing "this brutal dictator".

Contrastingly, former Cuban President Fidel Castro commented that in defying the rebels, Gaddafi would "enter history as one of the great figures of the Arab nations", while Venezuela's Chávez described him as "a great fighter, a revolutionary and a martyr."

Former South African President Nelson Mandela expressed sadness at the news, praising Gaddafi for his anti-apartheid stance, remarking that he backed the African National Congress during "the darkest moments of our struggle". Gaddafi was mourned as a hero by many across Sub-Saharan Africa; The Daily Times of Nigeria for instance stated that while undeniably a dictator, Gaddafi was the most benevolent in a region that only knew dictatorship, and that he was "a great man that looked out for his people and made them the envy of all of Africa."

The Nigerian newspaper Leadership reported that while many Libyans and Africans would mourn Gaddafi, this would be ignored by Western media and that as such it would take 50 years before historians decided whether he was "martyr or villain."

Following his defeat in the civil war, Gaddafi's system of governance was dismantled and replaced by the interim government of the NTC, which legalised trade unions and freedom of the press. In July 2012, elections were held to form a new General National Congress (GNC), which officially took over governance from the NTC in August.

In January 2013, the GNC officially renamed the Jamahiriyah as the "State of Libya". The pro-Gaddafists remaining in Libya came to be known as the Green Movement, and were formalized into the Libyan Popular National Movement party, established by Khuwaildi al-Hamidi. The Libyan government prevented this party from taking part in the 2012 parliamentary elections and banned the display of Gaddafist symbols.

Personal life

Gaddafi regarded personal appearance as important, with Blundy and Lycett referring to him as "extraordinarily vain." Gaddafi had a large wardrobe, and sometimes changed his outfit multiple times a day. He favoured either a military uniform or traditional Libyan dress, tending to eschew Western-style suits. He saw himself as a fashion icon, stating "Whatever I wear becomes a fad. I wear a certain shirt and suddenly everyone is wearing it." Following his ascension to power, Gaddafi moved into the Bab al-Azizia barracks, a 6-square-kilometre (2.3 sq mi) fortified compound located two miles from the centre of Tripoli. In the 1980s, his lifestyle was considered modest in comparison to those of many other Arab leaders.

He was preoccupied with his own security, regularly changing where he slept and sometimes grounding all other planes in Libya when he was flying. He made particular requests when travelling to foreign countries. During his trips to Rome, Paris, Madrid, Moscow, and New York City, he resided in a bulletproof tent, following his Bedouin traditions. Gaddafi was notably confrontational in his approach to foreign powers and generally shunned Western ambassadors and diplomats, believing them to be spies.

Gaddafi married his first wife, Fatiha al-Nuri, in 1969. Although they had one son, Muhammad Gaddafi (born 1970), their relationship was strained, and they divorced in 1970. Gaddafi's second wife was Safia Farkash, née el-Brasai, a former nurse from the Obeidat tribe born in Bayda. They met in 1969, following his ascension to power, when he was hospitalized with appendicitis; he claimed that it was love at first sight. The couple remained married until his death. Together they had seven biological children: Saif al-Islam Gaddafi (born 1972), Al-Saadi Gaddafi (born 1973), Mutassim Gaddafi (1974–2011), Hannibal Muammar Gaddafi (born 1975), Ayesha Gaddafi (born 1976), Saif al-Arab Gaddafi (1982–2011), and Khamis Gaddafi (1983–2011). He also adopted two children, Hana Gaddafi and Milad Gaddafi.

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