Idris of Libya
Idris (Arabic: إدريس الأول; El Sayyid Prince Muhammad Idris bin Muhammad al-Mahdi as-Senussi; 12 March 1889 – 25 May 1983) was a Libyan political and religious leader who served as the Emir of Cyrenaica and then as the king of United Kingdom of Libya from 1951 to 1969. He was the chief of the Senussi Muslim order.
Idris was born into the Senussi Order. When his cousin, Ahmed Sharif as-Senussi, abdicated as leader of the Order, Idris took his place. Cyrenaica was facing invasion from Fascist Italy, under the leadership of Benito Mussolini. Idris formed an alliance with the British, through whom he entered into negotiations with the Italians, resulting in two treaties; these resulted in the Italian recognition of Senussi control over most of Cyrenaica. Idris then led his Order in an unsuccessful attempt to conquer the eastern part of the Tripolitanian Republic.
Following World War II, the United Nations General Assembly called for Libya to be granted independence. It established the United Kingdom of Libya through the unification of Cyrenaica, Tripolitania and Fezzan, 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 and 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 for medical treatment, Idris was deposed in a 1969 coup d'etat by army officers led by Muammar Gaddafi.
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, 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 as the official flag of Libya.