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Plaque denoting the "Peoples' Bureau" (Embassy) of "Socialist People's Libyan Arab Great Jamahiriya" in Prague.

Jamahiriya (Arabic جماهيرية, strict transliteration jamāhīriyya) is an Arabic term generally translated as "state of the masses." The term, a neologism coined by Muammar al-Gaddafi, is intended to be a generic term describing a type of state, like a "republic ruled by the masses" (see People's Republic).

In practice, the only state to which the term has ever been applied is Libya, of which Gaddafi is the Caid (translated Leader; strict transliteration Qāʼid). Although Gaddafi no longer holds public office or title, he is accorded the honorifics "Guide of the First of September Great Revolution of the Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya" or "Brotherly Leader and Guide of the Revolution" in government statements and the official press.[1]



The word jamāhīrīya was derived from jumhūrīya, which is the usual Arabic translation of republic. It was coined by changing the component jumhūr — "public" — to its plural form, jamāhīr — "the masses". Thus, it is similar to the term People's Republic.

It is often left untranslated in English, with Libya's long-form name thus rendered as Great Socialist People's Libyan Arab Jamahiriya.


The Libyan government states that Libya is a direct democracy without political parties, governed by its populace through local popular councils and communes. Because this system is ostensibly unique to Libya, the term jamahiriya was coined to describe it. In practice, however, the country is widely considered to be a military dictatorship under the rule of Gaddafi.

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References and notes

  1. ^ US Department of State's Background Notes, (Nov. 2005) "Libya - History", U.S. Dept. of State, Accessed July 14, 2006


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