Fedayeen is a term used to describe several distinct militant groups and individuals in West Asia  at different times in history. It is sometimes used colloquially to refer to suicide squads, especially those who are not bombers.


Fedayeen are any of various groups of people known to be volunteers, not connected to an organized government or military, in the Near East. They are usually deployed for a cause where the government has been viewed as failed 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 with actions based on resistance.

The word fidāʼīyīn is the Arabic plural to fidāʼī, which comes from the verb fadā (infinitive: fidāʼ, which means "redemption"; thus the literal translation of fidāʼīyīn is those who redeem themselves by sacrificing themselves. It is widely understood in the Arabic world to mean those willing to sacrifice themselves for God.


Armed militias known as the fedayeen grew from militant
The word militant, which is both an adjective and a noun, usually is used to mean vigorously active, combative and aggressive, especially in support of a cause, as in 'militant reformers'. It comes from the 15th century Latin "militare" meaning "to serve as a soldier"...

 elements within the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 Palestinians. The Fedayeen made efforts to infiltrate territory in Israel
The State of Israel is a parliamentary republic located in the Middle East, along the eastern shore of the Mediterranean Sea...

 in order to strike targets in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. Members of these groups were largely based within the refugee communities living in the Gaza Strip
Gaza Strip
thumb|Gaza city skylineThe Gaza Strip lies on the Eastern coast of the Mediterranean Sea. The Strip borders Egypt on the southwest and Israel on the south, east and north. It is about long, and between 6 and 12 kilometres wide, with a total area of...

 (then controlled by Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

) and the West Bank
West Bank
The West Bank ) of the Jordan River is the landlocked geographical eastern part of the Palestinian territories located in Western Asia. To the west, north, and south, the West Bank shares borders with the state of Israel. To the east, across the Jordan River, lies the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan...

 (then controlled by Jordan
Jordan , officially the Hashemite Kingdom of Jordan , Al-Mamlaka al-Urduniyya al-Hashemiyya) is a kingdom on the East Bank of the River Jordan. The country borders Saudi Arabia to the east and south-east, Iraq to the north-east, Syria to the north and the West Bank and Israel to the west, sharing...

), or in neighboring Lebanon
Lebanon , officially the Republic of LebanonRepublic of Lebanon is the most common term used by Lebanese government agencies. The term Lebanese Republic, a literal translation of the official Arabic and French names that is not used in today's world. Arabic is the most common language spoken among...

, and Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....


During this time (1948-c.1980), the word entered international usage and was frequently used in the Arab
Arab people, also known as Arabs , are a panethnicity primarily living in the Arab world, which is located in Western Asia and North Africa. They are identified as such on one or more of genealogical, linguistic, or cultural grounds, with tribal affiliations, and intra-tribal relationships playing...

 media as a synonym for great militancy. In the Israeli Hebrew press of this time the term ( fada'iun) had highly negative connotations and was associated with terrorism
Terrorism is the systematic use of terror, especially as a means of coercion. In the international community, however, terrorism has no universally agreed, legally binding, criminal law definition...

. 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
Fadayan-e Islam
Fadā'iyān-e Islam , was an Iranian Islamic fundamentalist secret society founded in 1946, by a 21 year-old theology student named Navvab Safavi. Safavi sought to purify Islam in Iran by ridding it of `corrupting individuals` by means of carefully planned assassinations of certain leading...

 has been described as "one of the first real Islamic fundamentalist organizations in the Muslim world
Muslim world
The term Muslim world has several meanings. In a religious sense, it refers to those who adhere to the teachings of Islam, referred to as Muslims. In a cultural sense, it refers to Islamic civilization, inclusive of non-Muslims living in that civilization...

". 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
Apostasy in Islam
Apostasy in Islam is commonly defined in Islam as the rejection in word or deed of one's former religion by a person who was previously a follower of Islam...

 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
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

A Marxist
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

-leaning activist group known as the Fedayeen (Fedayân in Persian language) was founded in 1971 and based in Tehran
Tehran , sometimes spelled Teheran, is the capital of Iran and Tehran Province. With an estimated population of 8,429,807; it is also Iran's largest urban area and city, one of the largest cities in Western Asia, and is the world's 19th largest city.In the 20th century, Tehran was subject to...

. Operating between 1971 and 1983, the Fedayeen carried out a number of political assassinations in the course of the struggle against the Shah
Mohammad Reza Pahlavi
Mohammad Rezā Shāh Pahlavi, Shah of Iran, Shah of Persia , ruled Iran from 16 September 1941 until his overthrow by the Iranian Revolution on 11 February 1979...

, after which the group was suppressed. That struggle continued however and eventually culminated in the Iranian Revolution
Iranian Revolution
The Iranian Revolution refers to events involving the overthrow of Iran's monarchy under Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi and its replacement with an Islamic republic under Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the leader of the...

 of 1979.

In 1979 the Iranian People's Fedâi Guerrillas
Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas
The Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas is an Iranian opposition organization. It has a Marxist-Leninist ideology. The group was formed in 1979, when Ashraf Dehghani broke away from the Organization of Iranian People's Fedai Guerrillas...

 split from the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority)
Organization of Iranian People's Fedaian (Majority)
The Organization of Iranian People's Fadaian or Fedayan-e Khalq , 'Organization of self-sacrificers of the people of Iran ') is the largest socialist party in Iran and advocates the overthrow of the Islamic regime in Iran...



Beginning in 1995, Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

 established a paramilitary group known as the Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam
Fedayeen Saddam was a paramilitary organization loyal to the former Ba'athist government of Saddam Hussein. The name was chosen to mean "Saddam's Men of Sacrifice". At its height, the group had 30,000-40,000 members.-Irregular forces:...

, loyal to President Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein
Saddam Hussein Abd al-Majid al-Tikriti was the fifth President of Iraq, serving in this capacity from 16 July 1979 until 9 April 2003...

 and the Ba'athist
Baath Party
The Arab Socialist Ba'ath Party was a political party mixing Arab nationalist and Arab socialist interests, opposed to Western imperialism, and calling for the renaissance or resurrection and unification of the Arab world into a single state. Ba'ath is also spelled Ba'th or Baath and means...

 government. The name was chosen to imply a connection with the Palestinian Fedayeen. In July 2003, personnel records for the Fedayeen organization in Iraq were discovered in the basement of the former Fedayeen headquarters in east Baghdad
Baghdad is the capital of Iraq, as well as the coterminous Baghdad Governorate. The population of Baghdad in 2011 is approximately 7,216,040...

 near the Al-Rashid Airfield. At the time of the discovery, an Iraqi political party occupied the building; after an extensive cataloging process, an operation was conducted in Baghdad resulting in several individuals being detained.


In the 19th century, the similar name "Fedayee" (meaning freedom fighter), with the same etymology
Etymology is the study of the history of words, their origins, and how their form and meaning have changed over time.For languages with a long written history, etymologists make use of texts in these languages and texts about the languages to gather knowledge about how words were used during...

, was used by Armenians who formed guerrilla organizations and armed bands in reaction to the oppression and unchecked murder of Armenians
Armenian Genocide
The Armenian Genocide—also known as the Armenian Holocaust, the Armenian Massacres and, by Armenians, as the Great Crime—refers to the deliberate and systematic destruction of the Armenian population of the Ottoman Empire during and just after World War I...

 in the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

. In the early 1990s, when the dispute with Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 over Nagorno-Karabakh
Nagorno-Karabakh is a landlocked region in the South Caucasus, lying between Lower Karabakh and Zangezur and covering the southeastern range of the Lesser Caucasus mountains...

 erupted into the Nagorno-Karabakh war
Nagorno-Karabakh War
The Nagorno-Karabakh War was an armed conflict that took place from February 1988 to May 1994, in the small enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh backed by the Republic of Armenia, and the Republic of Azerbaijan...

, the term was used by Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

 to describe Armenian irregular units operating in the region. The term was widely used and is still used to describe the volunteers, and can be found in literature and Armenian Revolutionary songs
Armenian Revolutionary Songs
Armenian Revolutionary Songs are songs that promote Armenian patriotism. The origins of these songs lay largely in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, when Armenian political parties were established to struggle for the political and civil rights of Armenians living in the Ottoman...



Known by the same name, they operated inside the capital city, Asmara
Asmara is the capital city and largest settlement in Eritrea, home to a population of around 579,000 people...

, during the last 15-20 years of the armed struggle in Eritrea
Eritrea , officially the State of Eritrea, is a country in the Horn of Africa. Eritrea derives it's name from the Greek word Erethria, meaning 'red land'. The capital is Asmara. It is bordered by Sudan in the west, Ethiopia in the south, and Djibouti in the southeast...

 against Ethiopia
Ethiopia , officially known as the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, is a country located in the Horn of Africa. It is the second-most populous nation in Africa, with over 82 million inhabitants, and the tenth-largest by area, occupying 1,100,000 km2...

. They operated secretly and eliminated people who were considered dangerous to the struggle to free Eritrea.

In popular culture

  • In the popular science fiction novel Dune
    Dune (novel)
    Dune is a science fiction novel written by Frank Herbert, published in 1965. It won the Hugo Award in 1966, and the inaugural Nebula Award for Best Novel...

    , the elite Fremen
    The Fremen are a group of people in the fictional Dune universe created by Frank Herbert. First appearing in the 1965 novel Dune, the Fremen inhabit the desert planet Arrakis and are based on the desert-dwelling Bedouin and Kalahari Bushmen. In Herbert's novels, Arrakis is the sole known source...

     soldiers are known as the "Fedaykin", an allusion to the word "fedayeen."

  • In the novel Prayers for the Assassin
    Prayers for the Assassin
    Prayers for the Assassin is a political thriller, and a work of speculative fiction, written by American crime writer Robert Ferrigno. The story is set in 2040, after economic strife and a pair of nuclear attacks have led to civil war, causing the United States to split into two hostile and...

    , the main character Rakkim Epps is an ex-fedayeen soldier.

  • Altaïr, the main character in the popular video game Assassin's Creed
    Assassin's Creed
    Assassin's Creed is an award-winning historical third person, stealth action-adventure video game developed by Ubisoft for PlayStation 3, Xbox 360 and Microsoft Windows. The bulk of the game takes place during the Third Crusade, with the plot revolving around a sect known as the Secret Order of...

     is a fedayeen, named as an assassin.

  • Fedayeen
    Fedayeen (band)
    Fedayeen is an American punk band, composed of Abu Taha al-Amriki, Raheem Vukas, Hajirah D. and Taha Husayn. They identify themselves with the Taqwacore Movement, a Muslim punk based sub-culture known for challenging extremism, homophobia, sexism, and violence.-History:Fedayeen formed in 2009...

     is the name of an American punk rock band.

  • Fedayeen are mentioned in the song Ashes of the Wake
    Ashes of the Wake
    Ashes of the Wake is the fourth studio album by American groove metal band Lamb Of God, released in 2004. The album debuted at number 27 on the Billboard 200, selling 35,000 copies in its first-week and was rated by Guitar World as the 49th greatest Guitar Album of all Time...

     by the American metal band Lamb of God
    Lamb of God
    The title Lamb of God appears in the Gospel of John, with the exclamation of John the Baptist: "Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" in John 1:29 when he sees Jesus....


External links

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