Libya – Revolution Day?

September 1


With the 2011 revolution overthrowing Muammar Qaddafi, it remains to be seen whether the country will continue to remember September 1 as Revolution Day, marking the day in 1969 that Qaddafi rose to power.

Libya had an extremely rough colonization period under Italy in the early part of the 20th century. In 1951, Libya gained independence as a constitutional monarchy under King Idris.

King Idris held a decidedly pro-Western stance, and ruled the country for nearly two decades. He arranged to transfer power to his son on September 2, 1969. However, on September 1 that year, a coup led by officer Muammar Gaddafi deposed the King and his son, citing how the country’s wealth had managed to fall into the hands of the very few, notably the king’s inner circle. The 27 year-old Gaddafi gained his title: “Brother Leader and Guide of the Revolution.”

Gaddafi proposed that Libya would form a new type of government economy, neither capitalist nor socialist, but a third road between the two.

Gaddafi’s government’s links to the Soviet Union in the 1970s and 1980s, and its links to terrorist groups and bombings in the 1980s led to increase pressure from the West, and finally to U.S. air strikes in 1986 (which killed Gaddafi’s adopted daughter). In 1988, Libyan intelligence agents were involved in the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Scotland. Libya spent the next decade under U.N. sanctions.

In 1999, U.N. sanctions were lifted after Gaddafi extradited Libyans suspected in the bombing. After 9-11, Gaddafi denounced Al-Qaeda; U.S. sanctions were lifted in 2003 when Libya agreed to pay billions of dollars to victims of Pan Am 103 and other bombings.

In terms of GDP per capita, Libya is the second richest nation in Africa. Its official name is the Great Socialist People’s Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (Arabic for “state of the masses), and it stands out from all other nations in terms of its flag: it’s the only single-color banner. Green symbolizes both Libya and the Islamic religion.

Over the decades, Libya has moved away from solidarity with the Middle-East and more toward taking a leadership role in the development of Africa.

Gaddafi Losing Grip Over Libya – 2011

Gaddafi Vows to Push African Unity – 2009

Gaddafi and the Libyan Crown Prince, 1992

Day of National Rebelliousness – Cuba

July 26

Today’s holiday—National Rebelliousness Day—is interwoven with yesterday’s holiday, Día de Santiago, or the Feast Day of St. James, though the inciting incidents took place in separate hemispheres nearly two millennia apart.

In the wee hours of July 26, 1953, as the town of Santiago de Cuba recovered from the previous day’s Santiago (St. James) festivities, Fidel and Raul Castro led about 120 rebels in an attack on the Cuban military’s second largest barracks.

The attack failed almost before it began. The Moncada Barracks soldiers sounded the alarm before Castro’s men could gain access to the compound, losing any hope of surprise. Castro’s rebels were heavily outnumbered (sources say between 4:1 and 10:1) but fought on.

Fidel Castro in Washington DC, 1959

The rebels suffered over 60 casualties, though Castro later stated that only a handful died in the battle, and that the others were executed by the Batista regime after the battle ended.

Castro was imprisoned with several of the other survivors, but a popular support movement successfully lobbied for their release. The attack on the Moncada Barracks marked the beginning of the Cuban Revolution, and henceforth, Castro’s coalition against the Fulgencio Batista regime was known as the 26th of July Movement.

Flag of the July 26th movement

Today, Cubans celebrate El Día de la Rebeldía Nacional with three days of fiestas, music, dancing and parades.

Egypt’s Revolution Day

July 23

Before the revolution we were a poor people living in a very miserable situation and suffering from imperialism and the occupation by British forces…Everything changed in Egypt after the revolution.

— Ahmed Hamroush, a former leader of the Free Officers Movement

The British government recognized Egypt’s autonomy back in the late 19th century, but only on paper. Even after World War II, Egypt was occupied by British forces, eager to keep a hold of one of the most strategically valuable lands on the planet. Egyptians saw their king as a puppet monarch of the West, and the government as corrupt.

In 1952 Lieutenant Colonel Gamal Abd Al-Nasser and General General Mohammad Neguib organized a group of “Free Officers” from the army corps with the intent to free the country from European control.

The revolution took place literally overnight. On the morning of July 23 the Free Officers took over vital government offices, utilities, and media stations, and announced the change of government to the Egyptian people. The coup was extremely well-orchestrated and highly successful thanks largely to Colonel al-Nasser’s planning. He and General Neguib forced King Farouk I to abdicate on July 26.

General Neguib became the first President, and Nasser became the Minister of the Interior, taking over the presidency in 1954.

The July Revolution inspired nations and colonies across Africa and the Arab world to fight for and demand independence from Western powers.

To this day, July 23 is Egypt’s National Holiday.

al-Nasser (left) and Naguib (center) after July Revolution
al-Nasser (left) and Naguib (center) after July Revolution

The July Revolution shall remain till the end of time one of the greatest events in the history of Egypt, which we celebrate its glorious memory every year. We will always renew our honour and pride in a unique national revolution that changed the face of life in Egypt, becoming among the greatest revolutions in the history of mankind. — President Mubarak, 1993

Apathy in Egypt on coup’s Anniversary

2011: Of course, since this entry was written, Egypt has undergone quite a different revolution, making former President Mubarak’s quote above all the more ironic. It remains to seen whether the the Arab Spring of 2011 will inspire  new or additional annual commemorations in the years ahead.