Fadā'iyān-e Islam (Persian: فدائیان اسلام, also spelled as Fadayan-e Islam or in English "Fedayeen of Islam" or "Devotees of Islam"), was an Iranian Islamic fundamentalist terrorist 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 intellectual and political figures. After a series of successful killings and the freeing of some of its assassins from punishment with the help of the group's powerful clerical supporters, the group was suppressed and Safavi executed by the Iranian government in the mid-1950s. The group survived as supporters of the Ayatollah Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution of Iran.
The group was part of a "growing nationalist mobilization against foreign domination" in the Middle East after World War II, and has been said to presage more famous Islamist terrorist groups. Its membership is said to have been made up of youth employed in "the lower echelons of the Tehran bazaar." Its program went beyond generalities about following the sharia to demand prohibitions of alcohol, tobacco, opium, films, gambling, wearing of foreign clothing, the enforcement of amputation of hands of thieves, and the veiling of women, and an elimination from school curriculum of all non-Muslim subjects such as music.
Its first assassination was of a nationalist, anti-clerical author named Ahmad Kasravi, who was shot and killed in 1946. Kasravi is said to have been the target of Ayatollah Khomeini's demand in his first book, Kashf al Asrar (Key to the Secrets), that "all those who criticized Islam" are mahdur ad-damm, (meaning that their blood must be shed by the faithful). Secularist Iranian author Amir Taheri argues that Khomeini was closely associated with Navab Safavi and his ideas, and that Khomeini's assertion "amounted to a virtual death sentence on Kasravi."
Hussein Emami, the assassin and a founding member of the Fadayan, was promptly arrested and sentenced to death for the crime. The Iranian intelligentsia united in calling for an example to be made of him. Emami, however, was spared the gallows. According to Taheri, he roused religious defenders and used his prestige as a seyyed, or descendent of the Prophet Muhammad, to demanded he be tried by a religious court. Khomeini and many of the Shia clergy pressure the Shah to give Emami a pardon, taking advantage of the Shah's political difficulties — such as the occupation of Azerbaijan province by Soviet troops — at that time. Khomeini himself asked the Shah for the pardon.
In 1949, the group killed court minister (and former prime minister) Abdul-Hussein Hazhir. On 7 March 1951, the Prime Minister Haj-Ali Razmara was assassinated, in retaliation for his advice against nationalizing the oil industry. Three weeks later the Education and Culture Minister Ahmad Zangeneh was assassinated by the group. Razmara's assassination was said to have moved Iran "further away from a spirit of compromise and moderation in relation to the oil problem" and "so frightened the ruling classes that concession after concession was made to nationalist demands in an attempt to pacify the intensely aroused public indignation." The Fada'iyan are also reported to have "narrowly failed" in an attempt on the life of Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
In addition to Emami, Khalil Tahmasebi, the assassin of Razmara, was also pardoned by the Iranian Parliament during the premiership of Mohammad Mossadegh. Ayatollah Abol-Ghasem Kashani, a powerful member of parliament and a supporter of the Fadayan, "arranged for a special Act to be passed quashing the death sentence on Tahamsebi and declaring him [Tahamsebi] to be a soldier of Islam," to the further consternation of Iranian secularists. However, following the fall of Mossaddegh Tahmasebi was arrested again and tried in 1952. He was sentenced to death and executed in 1955. In addition, Ayatollah Kashani ended his alliance with Mossadegh and become close to the Shah after the assassination.
Although the Fadayan strongly supported the nationalization of Iran's foreign-owned oil industry, they turned against the leader of the nationalization movement, Mohammad Mossadeq, when he became prime minister, because of his refusal to implement the sharia law and appoint strict Islamists to high positions. The danger from the Fada'iyan "was one of the primary factors accounting for Mosaddeq's decision to move the prime minister's office to his own residence." Another assassination attempt on 15 February 1952 badly wounded Hossein Fatemi, "Mosaddeq's dynamic and capable aide" and foreign minister, left Fatemi "badly wounded and effectively disabled for almost eight months." This was planned by the group's second in command, Abolhossein Vahedi, and executed by a teenage member of the group.
In 1955, Navab Safavi and "other members of the Fedayeen of Islam, including Emami," were finally executed. The group continued on, however, according to author Baqer Moin, turning to Ayatollah Khomeini for a new spiritual leader, and reportedly being "reconstructed" by Khomeini disciple, and later controversial "hanging judge," Sadegh Khalkhali. It is thought to have executed the assassination of Iranian Prime Minister Hassan Ali Mansour in 1965. Mansour is reported to have been "tried" by a secret Islamic court made up of Khomeini followers Morteza Motahhari and Ayatollah Mohammad Beheshti and sentenced to death "on a charge of `warring on Allah` as symbolized by the decision" to send Khomeini into exile. The three perpetrators of the "sentence" - Mohammad Bokara'i, Morteza Niknezhad and Reza Saffar-Harandi - "were arrested and charged as accomplices," but the story of the trial and sentence was not revealed until after the revolution.
Revolution and Islamic Republic
During the 1979 Iranian Revolution, Fadayan members served as foot soldiers for Khomeini and formed part of the fundamentalist wing of the revolutionary base, pressuring Khomeini to implement rule of Islam immediately. They called for a "wholesale introduction of Islamic legal and social codes including a ban on music, alcohol, the cinema, usury, women working outside the home and compulsory veiling." Many of its members went on to serve in the Islamic Republic regime.
In late 1998, after concern was raised about a series of killings of Iranian dissidents, (known as the Chain Murders), a statement was issued in Tehran by a previously unknown group with a name similar to Fadayaan-e Islam, taking credit for at least some of the killings. The statement by a group calling itself "pure Mohammadan Islam devotees of Mostafa Navvab," (Fadayaan-e Islam-e Naab-e Mohammadi-ye Mostafa Navvab), said in part:
"Now than domestic politicians, through negligence and leniency, and under slogan of rule of law, support the masked poisonous vipers of the aliens, and brand the decisive approaches of the Islamic system, judiciary and responsible press and advocates of the revolution as monopolistic and extremist spread of violence and threats to the freedom, the brave and zealous children of the Iranian Muslim nation took action and by revolutionary execution of dirty and sold-out elements who were behind nationalistic movements and other poisonous moves in universities, took the second practical step in defending the great achievements of the Islamic Revolution ... The revolutionary execution of Dariush Forouhar, Parvaneh Eskandari, Mohammad Mokhtari and Mohammad Jafar Pouyandeh is a warning to all mercenary writers and their counter-value supporters who are cherishing the idea of spreading corruption and promiscuity in the country and bringing back foreign domination over Iran..."
It is not certain what the connection of the group was to the murders.
- FEDĀʾĪĀN-E ESLĀM. (1999). In Encyclopædia Iranica. Retrieved from http://www.iranicaonline.org/articles/fedaian-e-esla The Fedāʾīān’s importance in Persian politics was due to several related factors. First, they were exceptionally successful as a terrorist organization
- "The "terrorist group" that Kermit Roosevelt and Donald Wilber mobilized was the Fadaian Islam". Web.mit.edu.
- Iran: between tradition and modernity By Ramin Jahanbegloo
- "The Fada’iyan-e Islam were the first Shiite Islamist organization to employ terrorism as a primary method of political activism" (PDF). University of Michigan.
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p. 98
- Fundamentalist Islam at Large: The Drive for Power by Martin Kramer, Middle East Quarterly, June 1996
- Abrahamian, Ervand Iran between Two Revolutions, Princeton University Press, 1982, p. 259
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p. 101
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), pp. 107-8
- Iran Mossadeq and oil nationalization
- Zabih, Sepehr, The Mossadegh Era : Roots of the Iranian Revolution, Lake View Press, 1982, pp. 25-6
- Molavi, The Soul of Iran, (2005), p. 323
- Zabih, Sepehr (September 1982). "Aspects of Terrorism in Iran". Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science. International Terrorism (Sage Publications) 463: 84–94. doi:10.1177/0002716282463001007. Retrieved 28 July 2013.
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p. 109
- Abrahamian, Ervand, A History of Modern Iran, Cambridge University Press, 2008, p.116
- Mohammad Mosaddeq and the 1953 Coup in Iran, Mark j. Gasiorowski and Malcolm Byrne (Eds.), Syracuse University Press, 2004, p. 66
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p.115
- Moin, Khomeini (2000), p.224
- Taheri, Amir, Spirit of Allah : Khomeini and the Islamic Revolution , Adler and Adler c1985, p.187
- Taheri, The Spirit of Allah, (1985), p.156
- "A Review of Serial Murders by Nahid Mousavi - translated from Zanan [Women]; Social & Cultural Magazine (Monthly) December 1999, No. 58".