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Idris, GBE ( ) born Sayyid Muhammad Idris bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi al-Senussi (12 March 1890 – 25 May 1983) was the last and only King of Libya, reigning from 1951 to 1969 and the Chief of the Senussi Muslim order.

Early life

He was born at Al-Jaghbubmarker, the headquarters of the Senussi movement, the son of Sayyid Muhammad al-Mahdi bin Sayyid Muhammad al-Senussi and his fifth wife Aisha bint Ahmad al-Syrte. Idris was a grandson of Sayyid Muhammad bin 'Ali as-Senussi, the founder of the Senussi Muslim sufi order. He became Chief of the Senussi order in 1916 following the abdication of his cousin Sayyid Ahmed Sharif es Senussi. He was recognized by the British under the new title Emir of the territory of Cyrenaica, a position also confirmed by the Italians in 1920.

Idris spent the early part of his career attempting to negotiate independence for Cyrenaica. In 1922, following the Italianmarker military campaigns against Libya, he went into exile. Egyptmarker then served as his base in a guerrilla war against the colonial Italian authorities.

World War II

During World War II, Idris supported the United Kingdommarker and brought the Cyrenaican nationalists to fight alongside the Allies against the Axis. With the defeat of the German and Italianmarker forces led by Erwin Rommel, he was finally able to return to his capital, Benghazimarker and form an official government.

Libyan independence

Idris es Senussi approximately at the time of Libya's independence in 1951
He was also invited to become Emir of Tripolitania, another of the three traditional regions that now constitute modern Libya (the third is Fezzanmarker). By accepting he began the process of uniting Libya under a single monarchy. From Benghazi, Idris led the team negotiating with the United Kingdom and the United Nations over independence, which was achieved on 24 December 1951. Idris was proclaimed the King of Libya.

To the chagrin of Arab nationalists at home and supporters of Pan-Arabism in neighbouring states, Idris maintained close ties with the United Kingdom and the United Statesmarker, even after the former intervened against Egypt during the 1956 Suez Crisis. Another threat to his regime was his failure to produce a male heir to succeed him to the throne. The economy prospered from its oil fields and the presence of the American Air Force's Wheelus Air Basemarker near Tripoli, but the king's health began to falter.
King Idris I on the cover of the Libyan Al Iza'a magazine, August 15, 1965

Overthrow and exile

On 1 September 1969, while Idris was in Turkeymarker for medical treatment, he was deposed by the Libyan army under the leadership of Colonel Muammar al-Qaddafi in a coup. The coup pre-empted Idris' instrument of abdication, dated 4 August 1969, to take effect on 2 September 1969, in favor of his nephew, Crown Prince Hasan as-Senussi.

After the coup of 1969, Idris was placed on trial in absentia in the "Libyan People's Court" and sentenced to death in November 1971.

He left to Kamena Vourlamarker, Greecemarker, by ship and went into exile in Egyptmarker, where he died in Cairomarker in 1983, aged 94. He was buried in Medina, Saudi Arabiamarker.

See also


  1. Vandewalle, Dirk (2006). A history of modern Libya. Cambridge University Press. p. 36. ISBN 978-0521850483.
  2. Oliver, Roland; Atmore, Anthony (2005). Africa since 1800. Cambridge University Press. p. 236.
  3. Diller, Daniel; Moore, John (1995). The Middle East. Congressional Quarterly. p. 308.
  4. Bloodless coup in Libya. BBC News On This Day. September 1, 1969.

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