Fedayeen (Arabic: فِدائيّينfidāʼīyīn; Arabic pronunciation: [fɪdaːʔɪjiːn])[note A][1] is a term used to refer to various military groups willing to sacrifice themselves for a larger campaign.


The term fedayi is derived from Arabic: فدائيون fidā'īyūn IPA: [fɪdaːʔɪjuːn], literally meaning: "those who sacrifice themselves".[1][2]

Nizari Ismaili stateEdit

Hassan-i-Sabbah (circa 1050–1124),[3][4] who founded the Nizari Ismaili state in Persia and Syria, first coined the term to refer to the Hashshashins.[citation needed] Fidāʼīyīn is the plural of fidāʼī, which means "sacrifice." It is widely understood as "those willing to sacrifice themselves for God". The group carried out an armed struggle against the Seljuk empire.


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.[citation needed]

In 1951 "mobs of "irregular self-sacrificers, or fedayeen" some "armed by the Muslim Brotherhood", attacked the British military base defending the Suez Canal Zone.[5]


Known by the same name, they operated inside the capital city, Asmara, during the last 15–20 years of the armed struggle in Eritrea against Ethiopia. They operated secretly and eliminated people who were considered dangerous to the struggle to free Eritrea, which lasted from 1961 to 1991.[citation needed]


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.[6] After several successful assassinations it was suppressed in 1956 and several leading members were executed.

A Marxist-leaning activist group known as the Fedayeen (Fedayân in Persian language) was founded in 1971 and based in Tehran. 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.

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


Beginning in 1995, Iraq established a paramilitary group known as the Fedayeen Saddam, loyal to the then president Saddam Hussein and the Ba'athist government. The name was chosen to imply a connection with the Palestinian Fedayeen.[7] In July 2003, personnel records for the Fedayeen organization in Iraq were discovered in the basement of the former Fedayeen headquarters in east Baghdad near the Rasheed Air Base. 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.


A demolished Israeli farmhouse, after a fedayeen attack (1956).

Palestinian fedayeen are militants of a nationalist orientation from among the Palestinian people. The fedayeen made efforts to infiltrate territory in Israel in order to strike military[8] as well as civilian[9][10][11][12][13][14][15] targets in the aftermath of the 1948 Arab–Israeli War.

Members of these groups were living in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank or in neighboring Lebanon and Syria. Prior to Israel's seizure of the West Bank and Gaza Strip in the Six-Day War, these areas, originally destined for a Palestinian state, were under Jordanian and Egyptian occupation, respectively. After Israel's Operation Black Arrow in 1955, the Palestinian fedayeen were incorporated into an Egyptian army unit.[16][17][18][19][20][21][22]

During this time (1948 – c. 1980), the word entered international usage and was frequently used in the Arab media as a synonym for great militancy.[citation needed] In the Israeli Hebrew press of this time the term (פַדַאיוּן fada'iun) had highly negative connotations and was associated with terrorism.[8] Since the mid-1960s and the rise of more organized and specific militant groups, such as the Palestine Liberation Organization, the word has fallen out of usage, but not in the historical context.

Turkey/Late Ottoman EmpireEdit

Within the context of Turkish history, the term fedailer is often associated with the Late Ottoman or Early Republican irregular forces, known as: Kuva-yi Milliye.[23]

In popular cultureEdit

  • In the popular science fiction novel Dune, the elite Fremen soldiers are known as the "Fedaykin", an allusion to the word "fedayeen."
  • In the novel Prayers for the Assassin, the main character Rakkim Epps is an ex-Fedayeen shadow warrior.
  • Altaïr, the main character in the video game Assassin's Creed is a fedai, named as an assassin. In Assassin's Creed: Revelations, he returns from a self-imposed exile to find Masyaf is now guarded by fedayeen.
  • Fedayeen is the name of an American punk rock band.
  • Fedayeen are mentioned in the song "Ashes of the Wake" by the American metal band Lamb of God.
  • Fedayeen and other types of fighters originating from the Middle East have been depicted in large scale iconic paintings by Ayman Baalbaki.
  • In the Freespace 2 campaign Blue Planet: War in Heaven, the Fedayeen are a UEF black ops group.
  • Several ultras groups, especially in Italy, are named "Fedayn" (first used by the Curva Sud Roma group Fedayn founded in 1972 and then by the Fedayn 1979 from Curva B of Napoli's Ultras).
  • In the Super Nintendo video game Feda: The Emblem of Justice, the highest lawful rank the player can obtain is "Fedayeen".

See alsoEdit


^note A Derives from the word فداء fidāʼ, which means redemption. Literally, someone who redeems himself by risking or sacrificing his life. The pronunciation varies for the first vowel, for example IPA: [feˈdæːʔ, feˈdæːʔi], hence the transcription difference.


  1. ^ a b Tony Rea and John Wright (1993). The Arab-Israeli Conflict. Oxford University Press. p. 43. ISBN 978-0-19-917170-5.
  2. ^ Middle East Glossary - The Israel Project: FEDAYEE Archived 2012-04-27 at the Wayback Machine
  3. ^ Frischauer, Willi (1970). "Chapter II". The Aga Khans. The Bodley Head. p. 40. ISBN 0-370-01304-2.
  4. ^ Daftary, Farhad; Ali-de-Unzaga, Omar. "Hasan Sabbah". The Institute of Ismaili Studies. Retrieved 2018-02-05.
  5. ^ Wawro, Geoffrey (2010). Quicksand: America's Pursuit of Power in the Middle East. Penguin. ISBN 978-1101197684.
  6. ^ Abrahamian, Ervand, A Modern History Of Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.116
  7. ^ Seddon, David. A Political and Economic Dictionary of the Middle East. Taylor and Francis. p. 165.
  8. ^ a b "Which Came First- Terrorism or Occupation - Major Arab Terrorist Attacks against Israelis Prior to the 1967 Six-Day War". Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs. 31 March 2002.
  9. ^ Stein, Leslie (2014). The Making of Modern Israel; 1948-1967. John Wiley & Sons. pp. 171–172.
  10. ^ Shapira, Anita (2012). Israel; A History. p. 271. ISBN 9781611683530. Retrieved 23 September 2014.
  11. ^ Filiu, Jean-Pierre (2014). Gaza: A History. Oxford University Press. p. 92.
  12. ^ Aloni, Udi (2011). "Samson the Non-European". Studies in Gender and Sexuality. 12 (2): 124–133. doi:10.1080/15240657.2011.559441.
  13. ^ Four Killed In Ambush, Vancouver Sun
  14. ^ Byman, Daniel (2011). A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism. Oxford University Press. p. 22. ISBN 9780199831746. Retrieved 14 October 2014.
  15. ^ Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, England, 2004, provides the most up-to-date breakdown of the reasons for the flight
  16. ^ Haya Regev, Dr. Avigail Oren, The operations in the 1950s, University of Tel Aviv, 1995
  17. ^ Glubb, John Bagot. A Soldier with the Arabs. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers, 1957. p. 289.
  18. ^ 1948-1967- Major Terror Attacks. Mfa.gov.il. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  19. ^ Which Came First- Terrorism or Occupation – Major. Mfa.gov.il. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  20. ^ Remembrance Day Background. jafi.org (2005-05-15). Retrieved on 2012-05-09.
  21. ^ Fedayeen Attacks 1951–1956. jafi.org (2005-05-15). Retrieved on 2012-05-09.
  22. ^ The 1956 Sinai Campaign Archived 2007-10-16 at the Wayback Machine. Adl.org. Retrieved on 2010-09-29.
  23. ^ http://www.yumuktepe.com/kurtulus-savasinda-icel-dort-ve-besinci-bolum/ KURTULUŞ SAVAŞINDA İÇEL – DÖRT VE BEŞİNCİ BÖLÜM

External linksEdit