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Fedayeen ( , fidā'ī, plural fidā'iyūn: meaning, "freedom fighter(s)" or "self-sacrificer(s)" ) is a term used to describe several distinct, militant groups and individuals in Armeniamarker, Iranmarker and the Arab world at different times in history. It is sometimes used colloquially to refer to suicide squads, especially those who are not bombers.


Fedayeen are a group of people known to be volunteers, not connected to an organized government or military, in the Arab and Muslim world. They are usually deployed for a cause where the government has been viewed as failure or non-existent. They are associated with the role of resistance against occupation or tyranny. The name "fedayeen" is used to refer to armed struggle against any form of enslavement basing their actions on resistance.


Armed militias known as the fedayeen, grew from militant elements within the Palestinian refugee population.The Fedayeen made efforts to infiltrate and strike against zionists and their allies due to the zionist occupation of their lands. Members of these groups were largely based within the refugee communities living in Egyptianmarker-controlled Gazamarker, Jordanianmarker-controlled West Bankmarker, or in neighboring Lebanonmarker, and Syriamarker.

During this time (1948-c.1965), the word entered international usage and was frequently used in newspaper articles and political speeches as a synonym for great militancy. In the Israeli Hebrew press of this time the term ("פדאין") had highly negative connocations and was considered synonymous with "terrorist". Since the mid-1960s and the rise of more organized and specific militant groups, such as the PLO, the word has fallen out of usage, but not in the historical context.


During the 1940s, a group of civilians volunteered to fight the British control of Egyptian land around the Suez Canal. The British had deployed military bases along the coast of the Suez Canal under the claim of protection. Many Egyptians viewed this as an invasion against their sovereign power over their country. While the Egyptian government didn't refuse the action, the people's leaders organized groups of Fedayeen who were trained to combat and kill British soldiers everywhere in Egypt, including the military bases. Those groups were viewed very highly among the Egyptian population.


Two very different groups used the name Fedayeen in recent Iranian history. Fadayan-e Islam has been described as "one of the first real Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the Muslim world". It was founded by Navab Safavi in 1946 for the purpose of demanding strict application of the sharia and assassinating those it believed to be apostates and enemies of Islam. After several successful assassinations it was suppressed in 1956 and several leading members were executed. It continued on under the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini and helped bring about the Islamic Revolution of Iran

A Marxist-leaning activist group known as the Fedayeen (Fedayân in Persian language) was founded in 1971 and based in Tehranmarker. Operating between 1971 and 1983, the Fedayeen carried out a number of political assassinations in the course of the struggle against the Shah, after which the group was suppressed. That struggle continued however and eventually culminated in the Iranian Revolution of 1979.

In 1979 the Iranian People's Fedâi Guerrillas split from the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian .


Beginning in 1995, Iraqmarker established a paramilitary group known as the Fedayeen Saddam, loyal to President Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist government. The name was chosen to imply a connection with the Palestinian Fedayeen. In July 2003, the personnel records of the entire Fedayeen organization in Iraq was discovered in the basement of the former Fedayeen headquarters in east Baghdadmarker near the Al-Rashid Airfield. At the time of the discovery, an Iraqi political party occupied the building. After an extensive cataloging process, dossiers of key Fedayeen members were made by US 1st Armored Division troops and resulted in a sweeping operation in Baghdad that led to the arrest of several Fedayeen generals.


The similar name "Fedayee" (meaning freedom fighter) with the same etymology, was used by Armenianmarker insurgents around 1990 when the dispute with Azerbaijanmarker over Nagorno-Karabakh was turning into the Nagorno-Karabakh war, although Armenia is solidly Christian. The term was widely used and is still used to describe the volunteers, and can be found in literature and songs.


Known by the same name, they operated inside the capital city, Asmara, during the last 15-20 years of the armed struggle in Eritrea. They operated secretly and eliminated people who were dangerous to the struggle to free Eritrea. Most of them include traitors, and influential Ethiopian military officials.

In popular culture

  • In the popular science fiction novel Dune, the elite Fremen soldiers are known as the "Fedaykin," an allusion to the word "fedayeen."

  • Altaïr, the main character in the popular video game Assassin's Creed is a fedayeen.

See also


  1. Abrahamian, Ervand, A Modern History Of Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.116
  2. Moin, Khomeini, (2000), p.224
  3. Taheri, Amir, Spirit of Allah : Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution , Adler and Adler c1985, p.187

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