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Fedayeen Saddam

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Fedayeen Saddam
فدائيي صدام
Fedayeen Saddam shoulder sleeve insignia
Founded1995 (1995)
DisbandedApril 2003 (2003-04) (de facto)
23 May 2003 (2003-05-23) (de jure)
Country Ba'athist Iraq
AllegianceSaddam Hussein
TypeLight infantry, guerrilla, presidential guard
RoleInternal security, last line of defense
Size30,000–40,000 members
PatronSaddam Hussein
EquipmentAK-47/AKM assault rifles and RPGs
CommandersUday Hussein (1995–1996)
Qusay Hussein (1996–2003)
Flag Small vexillological symbol or pictogram in black and white showing the different uses of the flag

Fedayeen Saddam (Arabic: فدائيي صدام, romanizedFidā'iyyī Saddām) was a paramilitary Fedayeen organization intensely loyal to the Ba'athist Iraqi 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.[1] The Fedayeen operated completely outside the law, above and outside political and legal structures.[2]

Irregular forces[edit]

The Fedayeen Saddam was not part of Iraq's regular armed forces but rather operated as a paramilitary unit of irregular forces. As a result of this, the Fedayeen reported directly to the Presidential Palace, rather than through the military chain of command. Whilst paramilitary, the Fedayeen were not an elite military force, often receiving just basic training and operating without heavy weapons.[citation needed] In this they were somewhat similar to the Basij of Iran or Shabiha militia of Syria.

Much like other paramilitaries, the Fedayeen was volunteer based and the units were never given an official salary. As a result, most of the members resorted to extortion and theft of property from the general population, even though the members had access to sanction-evading trade and high quality services (i.e. new cars, hospitals reserved for officials, expensive electronics) and a general standard of living considerably higher than that of the average Iraqi of the time.[citation needed] However, they were ordered not to threaten or harm any government officials. As the group had no overt religious affiliations, it had a mix of Sunni and Shia members. [citation needed][dubiousdiscuss]

The Fedayeen were among the most loyal organizations to the regime of Saddam Hussein and were a politically reliable force against domestic opponents. The militia is directly responsible for some of the regime's most brutal acts. The Fedayeen caught the attention of the international community in 2000 when it was reported that 30 prostitutes were beheaded in Baghdad, Basra and other major cities. Their heads were left on the front doorsteps of the prostitutes' homes as a "deterrent". Another report revealed that the militia executed eight prisoners on charges of defacing several murals depicting Saddam Hussein.[3] Another example of Fedayeen's brutality was in the spring of 2000, when it was reported that the militia cut out the tongues of four men accused of slandering Saddam Hussein with a pair of shears in Nasiriyah. Then all four were beheaded with a sword.[4][5]

The Fedayeen played a role in the 2003 war, resisting the American-led invasion by conducting some of the most deadly attacks on U.S. forces, including suicide attacks.[6][7]


Early years[edit]

In 1995 Uday Hussein formed the Fedayeen Saddam with ten to fifteen thousand recruits to maintain internal security in Iraq. The Fedayeen fighters tend to come from Saddam's hometown of Tikrit or are recruited from his al-Bu Nasir tribe.[8] Uday used the Fedayeen for personal reasons such as smuggling and suppressing opponents.[1]

In 1996 command of the militia was handed to Qusay Hussein when it was uncovered that Uday was diverting weapons to the militia from the Iraqi Republican Guard.

In 1998 the Ashbal Saddam (Saddam's Lion Cubs) was created to recruit and train young children for membership in the Fedayeen. The Ashbal recruited boys aged 10 to 15 for training in small arms and infantry tactics as well as loyalty conditioning.

Before Saddam was removed from power, the force was placed back under Uday's control.

2003 U.S. invasion[edit]

The Fedayeen Saddam did not rise to international attention, however, until the 2003 invasion of Iraq by U.S.-led Coalition forces. Whereas the Iraqi army and the Republican Guard quickly collapsed, Fedayeen forces put up stiff resistance to the coalition invasion. U.S. strategy was to bypass other cities and head straight to Baghdad. In response, Fedayeen fighters entrenched themselves in the cities and launched guerrilla-style attacks on rear supply convoys. These convoys were attempting but usually falling short of keeping up with the rapid advance to Baghdad. They were attempting to sustain the rapid advance by bringing up food, water, ammunition, medical supplies and mail from back home. These were very lightly armed cargo trucks driving as fast as they could on dirt roads mainly in southern Iraq, after loading supplies in Kuwait. Once they started to get close to central Iraq more and more paved roads were available. They were almost always at least a few days behind. This made the resupply convoys vulnerable to attack. In these trucks were usually low to mid ranking enlisted soldiers with mostly no combat experience.[citation needed] For instance these cargo trucks mainly were only defended by the two rifles the driver and truck commander had. So even with a relatively small force the Fedayeen could attack several of the last trucks in a convoy, or trucks that had lost contact with the convoy. It was easy for the Fedayeen to capture or destroy these isolated poorly defended vehicles. The Fedayeen also used intimidation in an attempt to maintain morale in the Iraqi army and to keep civilians from rebelling. The multinational coalition was forced to turn its attention to the slow task of rooting out irregular forces from the southern cities, delaying the advance by two weeks. During the invasion, Fedayeen fighters mostly wielded AK-47 assault rifles, rocket-propelled grenades, machine guns, and truck-mounted artillery and mortars. They made extensive use of subterfuge in an attempt to blunt the overwhelming technological advantage used by the invading forces.

By the end of the first week of April, Coalition forces had mostly succeeded in rooting out Fedayeen forces from the southern cities. The Shiite population was very un-supportive of the fighters, although many were intimidated. This factor, coupled with overwhelming firepower, quickly gave U.S. forces in the area a decisive edge. This reduced the pressure on the stretched supply lines, enabling the advance to continue. On 9 April, Baghdad fell to U.S. forces with only sporadic resistance by Fedayeen irregulars, foreign volunteers, and remnants of the Special Republican Guard, effectively ending the regime of Saddam Hussein. Tikrit, the last city to fall, was taken on 13 April.

The Fedayeen Saddam was officially dissolved on 23 May 2003, per Order 2 of the Coalition Provisional Authority under Administrator Paul Bremer.

Iraqi insurgency[edit]

The fall of Baghdad effectively ended the existence of the Fedayeen Saddam as an organized paramilitary. Some of its members died during the war. A large number survived, however, and were willing to carry on the fight even after the fall of Saddam Hussein from power. The disbanding of the Iraqi army and the de-Ba'athification policy sent many former Fedayeen members into the arms of Sunni guerrilla organizations, including jihadist groups such as Jama'at al-Tawhid wal-Jihad that began to form to resist the U.S.-led occupation. By June 2003, an insurgency was clearly underway in central and northern Iraq, especially in the area known as the Sunni Triangle. Some units of the Fedayeen also continued to operate independently of other insurgent organizations in the Sunni areas of Iraq. On 30 November 2003, a U.S. convoy traveling through the town of Samarra in the Sunni Triangle was ambushed by over 100 Iraqi guerrillas, reportedly wearing trademark Fedayeen Saddam uniforms. Exactly how much influence they had in the resistance, especially following Saddam Hussein's capture on 13 December 2003, was a source of controversy. Four former members of Fedayeen Saddam were arrested in the volatile Salah al-Din province on 14 May 2004, for the abduction, transfer, and gruesome beheading of American Nicholas Berg.[9][10][11]

Additional roles[edit]

The Fedayeen has been cited as carrying out some of the most brutal acts of the pro-Saddam militias. Fedayeen Saddam committed torture and executions involving beatings, breaking bones, gouging out eyes, throwing people off of high buildings, chopping off fingers, ears and genitals, cutting out tongues, piercing hands with electric drills, ritualized mutilations and amputations.[12][13][14][15] Additionally, they were thought to have acted as enforcers for the Iraqi army in order to prevent desertion.[16] In the last two years of Hussein's rule, a campaign of beheadings, mainly targeting women suspected of prostitution and carried out by his elite Fedayeen unit, killed more than 200 people, human rights groups reported at the time.[17]


The Fedayeen Saddam wore two uniforms, an all black one worn on operations[7][18][19] and an all white one worn on parade.[20][21] They also operated in plain clothes in order to confuse Coalition forces.[22][23][24]

A Fedayeen Saddam helmet, displayed at the Army Flying Museum, United Kingdom.

A black Darth Vader style helmet was also worn by some of the black-uniformed Fedayeen, as Uday Hussein (commander of the Fedayeen and eldest son of Saddam) was reportedly an avid fan of Star Wars.[25][7][26][27][18] The helmet shell was made of fibre glass, with a nylon webbing cradle. Fixed to the right side was a moulded rubber Fedayeen badge, which consisted of a silhouette of Saddam and the motto; Allah al-watan qa'ed (God, homeland, leader).[28]


The Fedayeen were equipped as light infantry, and were armed with AK-47/AKM assault rifles and RPGs.[24]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Q&A: What is the Fedayeen Saddam? Archived 2018-02-14 at the Wayback Machine, New York Times
  2. ^ Lumb, Martin (24 March 2003). "The Fedayeen: Saddam's loyal force". BBC News. Archived from the original on 13 March 2023.
  3. ^ MacAskill, Ewen (3 November 2000). "Murders and mutilation in Iraq revealed". The Guardian. Archived from the original on 12 March 2023.
  4. ^ Rose, David (29 March 2003). "Death squads the CIA ignored". The Guardian.
  5. ^ "Video - Very Graphic جرائم صدام (Saddam's crimes)". Youtube.com.
  6. ^ Downing, Wayne (4 April 2003). "Tearing down the 'Baathist web'". NBC News. Archived from the original on 11 November 2022. Retrieved 11 November 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: bot: original URL status unknown (link)
  7. ^ a b c Buncombe, Andrew (5 April 2003). "Camp reveals dark secrets of Saddam's notorious Fedayeen". The Independent. Archived from the original on 12 March 2023.
  8. ^ Al-Marashi, Ibrahim (26 March 2003). "Who Are Saddam's Fidayin?". Archived from the original on 14 May 2023. Retrieved 23 December 2022.
  9. ^ "Four Saddam fedayeen arrested for American's beheading". Gulf News. 22 May 2004.
  10. ^ "Four Arrested In Nick Berg Beheading, Two Later Released". WAVE 3. 21 May 2004.
  11. ^ "Comments on arrests in connection with Berg killing". Associated Press. 21 May 2004.
  12. ^ "VERY GRAPHIC: جديد جديد فدائيو صدام فيديو لم يعرض". Youtube.com. Archived from the original on 12 March 2023.
  13. ^ "Fedayyen Saddam Iraqi Torture Tape (CNN)". Youtube.com. Archived from the original on 14 May 2023.
  14. ^ McIntyre, Jamie (31 October 2003). "Gruesome videotape allegedly shows brutal Fedayeen Saddam punishment". CNN. Archived from the original on 14 May 2023.
  15. ^ Lozano, Juan (9 April 2004). "Iraqis mutilated by Saddam relax before surgery". Plainview Herald.
  16. ^ "IRAQ: What is the Fedayeen Saddam?". cfr.org. Archived from the original on 16 November 2016. Retrieved 16 November 2016.
  17. ^ "The hidden hand behind the Islamic State militants? Saddam Hussein's". www.washingtonpost.com. Archived from the original on 11 February 2020. Retrieved 1 February 2017.
  18. ^ a b "This is why Saddam Hussein's fedayeen troops wore Darth Vader helmets - Americas Military Entertainment Brand". Archived from the original on 8 August 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 7 August 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2020.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ "Members of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein "suicide Fedayeen"... News Photo - Getty Images". 5 October 2004. Archived from the original on 7 August 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  21. ^ "Members of the guerilla fighting group Fedayeen Saddam march March 5,... News Photo - Getty Images". 28 March 2003. Archived from the original on 7 August 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  22. ^ "Saddam's Enforcers - CBS News". CBS News. 26 March 2003. Archived from the original on 13 April 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  23. ^ "Who Are Saddam's 'Fedayeen' Fighters?". ABC News. Archived from the original on 4 March 2021. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  24. ^ a b "IRAQ: What is the Fedayeen Saddam?". Archived from the original on 8 February 2018. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  25. ^ "The Artist Using Star Wars to Tell the Story of the Iraq War". VICE. 6 November 2017. Archived from the original on 18 April 2021. Retrieved 19 October 2020.
  26. ^ "Original Fedayeen Iraq Republican Guard "Darth Vader" Helmet RARE | eBay". Archived from the original on 31 July 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  27. ^ "Helmet, Fedayeen: Iraqi". Archived from the original on 11 November 2020. Retrieved 7 September 2020.
  28. ^ "Helmet (1995) for Fedayeen Saddam". royalarmouries.org. Royal Armouries. Archived from the original on 1 July 2022. Retrieved 22 August 2022.

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