Fedayeen (Arabic: فِدائيّين fidāʼīyīn; [fɪdaːʔɪjiːn])[note A] is a term used to refer to various military groups willing to sacrifice themselves.
The term fedayi is derived from Arabic: فدائيون fidā'īyūn IPA: [fɪdaːʔɪjuːn], literally meaning: "those who sacrifice themselves".
Hassan-i-Sabbah, who founded the Nizari Ismaili state in Persia and Syria, first coined the term to refer to the Hashshashins. 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 enslavement.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 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.
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 as well as civilian 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 or Egyptian occupation, respectively. After Israel's Operation Black Arrow in 1955, the Palestinian fedayeen were incorporated into an Egyptian army unit.
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. In the Israeli Hebrew press of this time the term (פַדַאיוּן fada'iun) had highly negative connotations and was associated with terrorism. 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 Empire
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.