The symbolic importance of Green Square
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Green Square has long been a symbol of Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi’s power. But that has changed over the course of the uprising of the past few months, with rebels storming the square over the weekend and renaming it "Martyrs Square".
Like Tahrir Square in Egypt, Tripoli’s Green Square has been more than a mere landmark in the ongoing clash pitting rebels against pro-regime forces in Libya. As the site of anti-government protests, but primarily of demonstrations by Muammar Gaddafi supporters and of fiery speeches by the leader himself, the palm-tree-lined square has been a barometre used to gauge who has the upper hand in the northern African nation.
In a nod to that symbolic value, rebels who poured into the area on Saturday after advancing into the capital immediately renamed it “Martyrs Square” in honour of Libyans killed over the past few months.
Originally built by Libya’s Italian colonial rulers, the area was called “Independence Square” under the Libyan monarchy in place after World War II. But Gaddafi marked his territory by rebaptising the space “Green Square” after seizing power in 1969. In 2009, six days of festivities were organised to mark the 40th anniversary of Gaddafi’s arrival in power. And only a few months ago, foreign journalists selected by the government were invited to the square in order to observe the throngs of pro-regime militants.
“Life without dignity has no value, life without green flags has no value. So sing and dance!” Gaddafi proclaimed on February 25th during one of his impassioned speeches at the square. But on the night of Sunday, August 21, rebels tore down those flags -- as well as portraits of the ruler -- and danced on them in a gesture of defiance against the regime and jubilation at reclaiming the place that was once most closely associated with it.