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Last modified: 2019-11-10 by ian macdonald
Keywords: tunisia | star (white) | crescent | sword |
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[Tunisia] 2:3, image by Željko Heimer

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Symbolism and development of the Flag

The national flag was adopted in 1835 and legislated in the Constitution on 01 June 1959.
Nozomi Kariyasu,
13 November 1999

The current version of the flag was adopted on 03 July 1999 [but see Flag Law]
J.J. Anderson, 29 July 2002

The white disc in the middle represents the sun and contains a red Osmanli (Turkish) crescent and a five-pointed star -- the two ancient symbols of Islam. The shape of the waxing moon (from the point of view of an Arab observer of the flag) brings luck. Red became a symbol of resistance against Turkish supremacy [sic] (Source: Webster's Concise Encyclopedia of Flags & Coats of Arms, Crampton, 1985)
Jarig Bakker, 21 July 1999

Quite true, but the Tunisians themselves seem to overlook the Turkish origin of their flag, or to at least be undisturbed by it. In the Military Museum outside Tunis there is a display showing the similarity between the current flag and that used by the Beylical government in the 19th Century. The tone of the display is pride in the continuity of national identity. I suspect that during the extended period of French colonial domination, Tunisians looked back at the crescent and star on a white circle as the emblem of national sovereignty, since it had been the flag under which their last independent government had ruled. It was therefore natural for them to retain/return to that flag when the French departed. Maybe the important point is that the Tunisians--at least when independence came in the 1960s--didn't identify the Turks as their oppressors and were therefore not bothered by the Turkish derivation of their flag. Just speculation, but it makes sense to me.
Joseph McMillan
, 26 July 1999

Since 1835 used after the example of the Turkish (Ottoman) flag of that time. In the center of the red field a white disk with a red crescent and a star, both known as Islamic symbols. On 03 July 1999 there was a small change: the crescent was adapted. The red color was also defined by law (PMS-red: S 94-1)
Source: Vlaggen Documentatie Centrum Nederland
Olivier Touzeau, 3 December 2000

Pantone 94-1 Process is CMYK 10-100-80-0, which is a fairly dark shade of red, with nearest BS value as RGB:204-0-51, almost identical to our R+. In two words, dark red.
António Martins, 26 December 2000

Album des Pavillons (2000) shows a flag with oversized disk and other errors. This image is probably based on the image that appears in the Flag Bulletin, September-October 2000, as supplied by the Tunisian Embassy in Washington. The dimensions of the flag are given as 2:3~,  i.e.,12:18~ with disk diameter as 8~.
This representation appears to be an error.
Željko Heimer, 12 April 2003

The protocol manual for the London 2012 Olympics (Flags and Anthems Manual London 2012) provides recommendations for national flag designs. Each NOC was sent an image of the flag, including the PMS shades, for their approval by LOCOG. Once this was obtained, LOCOG produced a 60 x 90 cm version of the flag for further approval. So, while these specs may not be the official, government, version of each flag, they are certainly what the NOC believed the flag to be.
For Tunisia: PMS 186 red. The vertical flag is simply the horizontal version turned 90 degrees clockwise.
Ian Sumner, 11 October 2012

Pre-1999 flag

[Tunisia] by Željko Heimer, 11 February 1996

From the Tunisian government website, the official description of the flag:

[Le drapeau est] "rouge et comporte en son milieu un cercle blanc où figure une étoile rouge à cinq branches entourée d'un croissant rouge".

[The flag is] "red and includes in the center a white circle charged with a red five-pointed star surrounded by a red crescent".

The flag was adopted in 1831 by Hassine I, 8th bey (sovereign) of the Husseinite Dynasty. [DK Pocket Book says 1835. Smith (1975) says the flag was adopted by Bey Hussein II.]
Ivan Sache, 02 December 2000

Flaggenbuch (1992) shows a disk four-sevenths the hoist. Album des Pavillons (2000) shows a diameter of one-half. My construction sheet is based upon a Flag Institute model, but there was nothing in the archive to indicate what that had been based upon.
Christopher Southworth, 06 April 2003

Earlier representations

[Tunisia] 7:10, by Željko Heimer

Flaggenbuch (1939) shows basically the same flag as today, though it seems that the standard layout of it was slightly different before WWII, most notably the star pointed downward. Of course, one may presume that there were no firm regulations on how the flag should look, so any design that would match the general description would be acceptable and was probably used. However, Neubecker in Flaggenbuch gives definitive construction details with overall dimension 7x10 and disk diameter of 4 units in the middle of it. Somehow is hard to imagine that Neubecker would include such dimensions if he had no good sources to cover for it. The star direction is as well inconsequential, though one may observe that previously (say before WWII) there was tendency in Islamic flags for the star to point downward and that has slowly changed to nowadays more usually upward, or as often is the case in crescent-and-star combinations to "crescent-wise". This topic however needs much deeper research.

Neubecker does not give details of the crescent and star but, by measuring the drawing, the crescent diameters match well (almost perfectly) with 3 and 2.5, with the latter being offset to the fly for 0.4, and the star is inscribed in a circle offset by 0.6, with diameter 1.8. Not quite unreasonable numbers.

Finally, the National Geographic (1917) claims that the disk diameter is half the flag height, though I wouldn't hold that to be a strict rule.
Željko Heimer, 12 April 2003

Tunisian Coat of Arms

You can see the Tunisia's Coat of Arms, at: or

Ramzi Hachani, 25 June 1999

[Tunisian Coat of Arms] based on an original drawing by Ivan Sarajcic, 15 October 1999

Motto reads: "order, freedom and justice". The lion is for order, the ship for freedom and the balance for justice. The ship recalls the historical Phoenician history of the country, and its modern maritime interests.

Ivan Sarajcic, 16 October 1999

[Tunisian Coat of Arms] by Ivan Sarajcic, 15 October 1999

The Dorling-Kindersley Pocket Book shows a version with a multicolor background, with the following text: 
"The coat of arms of Tunisia has been altered since the abolition of the monarchy, most recently in 1963, and unusually has the motto on a scroll actually on the shield. The ship (also recalls early settlers), lion and balance were retained from the previous arms and symbolize the national motto".

Ivan Sache, 18 October 1999

The coat of arms was adopted on 21 June 1956, and had the lion on the dexter field on a red background, balance on the sinister field on a yellow background and motto below in Arabic:

"Article Premier – Les armoiries du Royaume sont confeune au modèle annexé au present décret.
Art. 2 – Les armoiries prévues à l’article precedent se lisent de la manière suivante:
A dextre d’un lion passant de sable tourney à dextre armé d’un glaive d’argent sur fond de gueules.
A senestre d’une balance de sable sur fond d’or.
En chef d’une galère punique cinglant surf lots et fond d’azur.
Sommé du croissant étoilé de Tunisie.
Posé en chef sur trophé de deux lances at bannières entre-croisées.
Supporté en pointe par une couronne murale mi-partie de gerbes d’épis à dextre et de rameaux d’olivier à senestre.
Cravaté de la plaque du Mérite National.
Devisé sur banderole: Liberté – Ordre – Justice"

In 1956, the arms were modified slightly to add the Medal of Independence in place of the National Merit medal.

In 1963, the arms were modified substantially, removing the olive branch, sheaves, medal, lances, and banners, changing the background to gold in all sections, reversing the positions of the lion and the balance, and changing the motto to Order - Freedom - Justice.  In 1989, the motto was changed back to Freedom - Order - Justice, but the arms were not changed.
Baba Sanfoor, 07 July 2005

See also:


[Tunisian Coat of Arms] image by Clay Moss, 2 July 2008

A picture at shows the national flag used as a jack on Tunisian navy vessels
Jan Mertens, 1 July 2008