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Flag of Tunisia
Flag of Tunisia.svg
Use National flag and ensign National flag and ensign
Proportion 2:3
Adopted 1831
Design Red background with a white circle containing a red five-pointed star surrounded by a red crescent
Designed by Original design by Al-Husayn II ibn Mahmud, altered in 1999

The crescent and star recalls the Ottoman flag and is therefore an indication of Tunisia's history as a part of the Ottoman Empire.


Previous flags

Flag during the Ottoman period (1574–1831).
Flag of the Ottoman Navy prior to 1844.
Flag of Bey of Tunis

Until the mid-18th century, the design and significance of maritime flags flying on ships in Tunis were unknown. However, various sources have been able to distinguish certain similarities among the flags: they were designed with a crescent-oriented shape in the presence of the colors blue, green, red, and white.[1] Thereafter, and until the early 19th century, the flag was composed of horizontal blue, red and green stripes, identifying the Ottoman regency in Tunis. This kind of flag with multiple bands and irregular contours floated on top of ships all along the coast of North Africa; similar flags with different colors and arrangements were also used on the continent.[1]

According to Ottfried Neubecker,[2] the bey of Tunis also had his own flag. This flag was most likely a simple personal banner of the ruler,[3] as it floated above the Bardo Palace, the Citadel of Tunis, on navy ships, and also in the center of the coat of arms in Tunisia. It was used at a number of public ceremonies—including at the proclamation of the Ottoman constitution on 21 March 1840[4]—until the abolition of the Bey monarchy on 25 July 1957.[2][5]

Believed to have been introduced by Al-Husayn II ibn Mahmud, although some sources, such as Abdel-Wahab, claim that it was in use three centuries earlier,[3] the flag was rectangular in shape and divided into nine stripes, the middle one green and double the size of all other bands, while the others alternated between yellow and red.[2] Featured in the center of the green stripe was the Zulfiqar, the legendary Islamic sword of Ali, with the blade in white and the hilt multicolored. The red and yellow stripes each contained five equidistant symbols, whose order was alternated between each stripe. These symbols were divided into two categories: one red six-sided star voided with a circle of a different color in the center—either a red star and green circle or a white star and blue circle—, and a large circle voided in its lower right by a small circle of different color, with the combination being either a small red circle within a larger blue circle or a small yellow circle within a larger red circle.[2] The first yellow stripe contains three red stars and two blue circles. The second stripe, red in color, contains three green circles and two white stars. The third stripe (second yellow one) is identical to the first, with the exception that the star in its center is white, while the fourth stripe (second white one) is identical to the second stripe.[2]

Origin of the current flag

The Pre-1999 Flag, with a slightly thinner crescent.

Several Muslim countries along the south coast of the Mediterranean Sea used a red flag similar to the flag of the Ottoman Empire.[6][7] After the destruction of the Tunisian naval division at the Battle of Navarino on 20 October 1827,[8] the sovereign Husainid Dynasty leader Al-Husayn II ibn Mahmud decided to create a flag to use for the fleet of Tunisia, to distinguish it from other fleets. There are some discrepancies over the date of the flag's adoption, as the government states that it was adopted in 1831,[9] while other sources like Siobhan Ryan's Ultimate Pocket Flags of the World claim that it was adopted in 1835.[10][11]

Since then, Tunisia has had a flag similar in appearance to that of Turkey, inspired by the Ottoman flag, as the Beys, at the time, were vassals of the Ottoman Empire. It differs from the Turkish flag, in the color of the crescent and the position of the star and circle. The crescent is white on the Turkish flag, but red on the Tunisian flag. On the Turkish flag, the star is off-centered, while on the Tunisian flag, the star and circle is located in the center of the flag.

French protectorate

The flag that was used by some military units based in Tunisia while under French colonization.

During the era of the French protectorate in Tunisia, French authorities did not change the Tunisian flag.[12] However, according to an article in the Flag Bulletin publishing in Fall 2000, for a short period of time during the French protectorate, the flag of France was placed in the canton (upper left) of the Tunisian flag. In the same vein, vexillologist Whitney Smith stated that the addition of the French flag was "modification of the unofficial Tunisian national flag, used for a few years".[13][14] He added:

Tunisia, a French protectorate, retained its national flag on land and at sea. Nevertheless, in the late 19th Century or early 20th Century an unofficial version of the flag was used with the tricolor canton. In 1925 a formal proposal was made to adopt that flag as official, but no action was taken. That flag, featured on the cover of this issue [of the Flag Bulletin], does not appear to have been illustrated in any vexillological source.[15]

Confusion arose when an issue of the French daily newspaper Le Petit Journal, published on 24 July 1904 on the occasion of the bey of Tunis's visit to France, reproduced an illustration showing the flag used while was visiting the Hôtel de Ville, Paris.[16] Ivan Sache of Flags of the World claimed that this flag design, which hadn't been seen earlier, may have been inaccurate, suggesting that the journalist might not have been at the affair or he had reproduced a drawing of the wrong flag.[17]

Arab Islamic Republic

Flag of the Arab Islamic Republic, according to Tahar Belkhodja.[18]

The Arab Islamic Republic was a proposed unification in 1974 of Tunisia and Libya, agreed upon by Libyan ruler Muammar al-Gaddafi and Tunisian President Habib Bourguiba. At the end of a meeting between the two leaders, the Tunisian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohamed Masmoudi, read a joint statement:

The two countries will form a single republic, the Arab Islamic Republic, with a single constitution, flag, president, army and equal executive, legislative and judicial branches. A referendum will be held on 18 January 1974.[19]

However, faced with opposition from within the regime and abroad, Bourguiba was forced to step back and abandon the project, claiming the unconstitutionality of the referendum. The flag itself would take have taken the colors of the flag of the Federation of Arab Republics, in existence from 1972 to 1977, but the falcon present at the center of that flag would have been replaced with the Tunisian star and red crescent, as the union agreement described it: "Flag: the star and Tunisian crescent in the white middle [stripe], then the red and black [stripes]."[18]


Construction diagram of the flag before 1999.

The Tunisian flag was defined in Article 4 of the 1 June 1959 constitution under these terms: "The flag of the Republic of Tunisia is red, it has, under the conditions defined by law, in the middle, a white circle containing a five-pointed star surrounded by a red crescent."[20]

The Organic Law No. 99-56 of 30 June 1999,[21] adopted on 3 July[22] by the Chamber of Deputies, formalized the Tunisian flag for the first time in law, clarifying Article 4 of the constitution.[23] The flag is in the form of a red rectangle with a width equal to two-thirds of its length.[23] In the middle of the flag is a white circle whose diameter is equal to one-third of the length of the rectangle and whose center is located at the intersection of the diagonals of the rectangle.[23] A red five-pointed star is located to the right of the circle, whose center is at a distance equal to one-thirtieth of the length of the flag from the center of the circle.[23]

Construction diagram of the flag according to the 1999 law.

The location of the star's five points is determined by an imaginary circle centered around the star's center, its diameter equal to roughly 15% the length of the flag. The points of the star are equidistant from each other, and one of the points is located on the horizontal median of the flag to the left of the center of the imaginary circle. The star is surrounded on its left by a red crescent made by the intersection of two arcs, an outer arc whose diameter is equal to one-fourth of the length of the flag, and an internal arc with a diameter equal to one-fifth of the flag's length.[23] In addition, at the top of the flag used by the President of the Republic, the words "for the nation" (Arabic: للوطن‎) are written in gold.[23][24] The three outer edges of the flag are lined with golden yellow fringe and a red ribbon, with golden fringe on the right vertical side and a white disk with a star and crescent near the fringe, is attached to the flag pole above the flag.[23]

Article 4 of the 1959 constitution specifies the presence of a technical dossier containing a model of the flag, a guide to drawing it, which includes the proper measurements, and technical specifications of its colors.[23]


For the Tunisian embassy in France, the color red represents the blood of martyrs killed during the Turkish conquest of Tunisia in 1574.[12][25] However, it is a well known historical fact[26] that the Tunisan invited the Turkish to libirate them from the Spanish invaders and from what is left of the Hafside dynasity. Therefore, the interpretation of the Tunisian embassy is far from reality. Another interpretation is that the "red Beylical flag spread light throughout the Muslim world".[27] The white symbolizes peace, while the crescent and five-pointed star represent unity of all Muslims and the Five Pillars of Islam, respectively.[25]

According to Ludvík Mucha, author of Webster's Concise Encyclopedia of Flags & Coats of Arms, the white circle located in the center of the flag represents the sun. The red crescent and the five-pointed star, two ancient symbols of Islam, were most notably used on Ottoman flag and have since appeared on many flags of Islamic countries. The crescent is, from the viewpoint of an Arabic observer, supposed to bring good luck. The color red is a symbol of resistance against Turkish supremacy.[28] Whitney Smith states that the crescent was first emblazoned on standards and buildings in the Punic state of Carthage, located in present-day Tunisia. Since appearing on the Ottoman flag, they were widely adopted by Muslim countries, and have become known as symbols of Islam, when in fact, they may be cultural symbols.[29]


The Tunisian flag is visible on all public and military buildings. The flag also floats on the seats of Tunisian ambassadors at regional and international meetings as well as at buildings housing Tunisian representatives around the world.[25] It is deployed during commemorations and national honors in a strictly ceremonial manner.[25] On the listed Flag Days below, the Tunisian flag is flown in public buildings, compulsory by law:

Date Name Notes
18 January Revolution Day[30] Beginning of tensions between French authorities and Bourguiba-led nationalists (1952)[31]
20 March Independence Day[32] Declaration of independence (1956); also known as Remembrance Day
21 March Youth Day[32]
9 April Martyr's Day[33] Suppression of nationalist demonstrations by French troops (1938)
1 June Victory Day[34] Adoption of Constitution of Tunisia (1959)
25 July Republic Day[35] Proclamation of the republic (1957)
15 October Evacuation Day[36] Evacuation of the last French military base in Tunisia (1963)
7 November Takeover Day[37] Zine El Abidine Ben Ali assumes the Presidency of Tunisia (1987)[38]

Article 129 of Penal Code of Tunisia punishes the insult either "publicly, by words, writings, gestures or any other manner" of the Tunisian flag and also foreign flags with one year imprisonment.[39]


Cockade on Tunisian military equipment.

The colors of the flag are included in other Tunisian symbols, such as the coat of arms, which contains a crescent and star enclosed in a circle with red border. In addition, equipment belonging to the Tunisian army are visually recognized by the presence of a cockade.

Most political parties of Tunisia reflect the colors of the flag or the flag itself; the logo of the ruling Constitutional Democratic Rally (RCD) party depicts a few individuals waving the flag.[40] Many postal stamps reflect the motifs of the flag,[41] which radiate "with brightness" on them.[42]


  1. 1.0 1.1 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  3. 3.0 3.1 Si Hasen Hosni Abdel-Wahab (1957). Note on the History of the Tunisian Flag. Tunis. p. 3.
  4. Hugon, p. 64.
  5. (French) Abbassi, Driss (2005). Entre Bourguiba et Hannibal. Identité tunisienne et histoire depuis l’indépendance. Paris: Karthala. p. 31. ISBN 2845866402. OCLC 62418216.
  6. Smith, Whitney (2001). Flag Lore Of All Nations. Brookfield, Connecticut: Millbrook Press. p. 94. ISBN 0761317538. OCLC 45330090.
  7. (French) "Les Drapeaux d'Ottoman". Ministry of Culture and Tourism of the Republic of Turkey. Retrieved 2008-07-25.[dead link]
  8. (French) Bdira, Mezri (1978). Relations internationales et sous-développement: la Tunisie 1857–1864. Stockholm: Almqvist & Wiksell International. p. 31. ISBN 9155407714. OCLC 4831648.
  9. (French) Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  10. Ryan, Siobhan (1997). Ultimate Pocket Flags of the World. London: Dorling Kindersley. ISBN 0-7513-1079-4. OCLC 43527639.
  11. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  12. 12.0 12.1 Le Drapeau tunisien. Tunis: Alif Éditions. 2006. ISBN 9973-22-210-5.
  13. Smith, Whitney (2000). "Flags in the news". The Flag Bulletin (195): 187. ISSN 0015-3370.
  14. Hugon, p. 61.
  15. Smith, Whitney (2000). "Cover picture". The Flag Bulletin (195): 197. ISSN 0015-3370.
  16. (French) "Les hôtes de la France: Réception de S. A. le bey de Tunis à L'hôtel de ville de Paris". Le Petit Journal. 1904-07-24. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  17. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  18. 18.0 18.1 Belkhodja, Tahar (1998). Les trois décennies Bourguiba: Témoignage. Paris: Publisud. p. 168. ISBN 2866007875. OCLC 41273403.
  19. Mohamed Tétémadi Bangoura (2005). Violence politique et conflicts en Africa: Le cas du Tchad. Paris: Harmattan. p. 230. ISBN 2296000797.
  20. "Constitution de la République Tunisienne". Government of Tunisia. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  21. Southworth, Christopher (2006-05-27). "Tunisia: Construction Sheet". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  22. Anderson, J. J. (2007-07-28). "Tunisia". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-25.
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 23.4 23.5 23.6 23.7 "Loi du 30 juin 1999 relative au drapeau de la République tunisienne" (PDF). Journal Officiel de la Republique Tunisienne (54): 1088. 6 July 1999. ISSN 0330-9258.
  24. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  25. 25.0 25.1 25.2 25.3 (French) "Drapeau de la République tunisienne". Embassy of the Republic of Tunisia to France. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  26. History of Tunisia by Ibn Abi Dinar
  27. (French) Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  28. Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  29. Smith, Whitney. "Flag of Tunisia". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  30. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2007-01-13). "Flag Days of January". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  31. (French) Martel, Pierre-Albin (2000-04-11). "Un homme dans le siècle". Jeune Afrique. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  32. 32.0 32.1 Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2005-07-30). "Flag Days of March". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  33. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2006-08-26). "Flag Days of April". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  34. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2008-02-23). "Flag Days of June". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  35. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2008-02-23). "Flag Days of July". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  36. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2005-07-30). "Flag Days of October". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  37. Raeside, Rob (ed.) (2006-03-04). "Flag Days of November". Flags of the World. Retrieved 2008-07-26.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
  38. "The World Factbook: Tunisia". CIA Directorate of Intelligence. 2008-07-24. Retrieved 2008-07-26.
  39. "Code Pénal" (in French). Government of Tunisia. Retrieved 2008-07-27.CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)
  40. Logo of the RCD, as an example of the use of the Tunisian flag by some political parties.
  41. "Stamp No. 1634". La Poste Tunisienne. 2008-01-29. Retrieved 2008-07-27.
  42. (French) Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).


  • (French) Hugon, Henri (1913). Les Emblèmes des beys de Tunis: Etude sur les Signes de l'autonomie Husseinite. Paris: Leroux. p. 64. OCLC 962103.
  • (French) Lua error in ...ribunto/includes/engines/LuaCommon/lualib/mwInit.lua at line 17: bad argument #1 to 'old_pairs' (table expected, got nil).
  • This article incorporates information from this version of the equivalent article on the French Wikipedia.

External links

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