Fedayeen Saddam (Iraq)

Country: Iraq
Details of Formation: News sources disagree on whether the group was founded in 1994 or 1995. Some evidence suggests that the group existed already in October 1994. The group was founded by Uday, Saddam’s eldest son (Council on Foreign Relations 2005). Saddam himself had put him in charge of forming the group.
Details of Termination: The Fedayeen Saddam ceased to be a PGM with the US occupation of Iraq in April 2003. It continued to exist as an armed group and led guerilla-style attacks on coalition forces (Council on Foreign Relations 2005).
Purpose: Upon foundation, Fedayeen Saddam’s purpose was to fight off opposition to Saddam’s regime and prevent a coup. The Fedayeen Saddam were enforcers of the military, threatening to kill soldiers trying to defect (New York Times 2003). They were especially loyal to Saddam. Uday, its leader, used the force for personal ends (Council on Foreign Relations 2005).
Organisation: The Fedayeen Saddam were led by Uday, a son of Saddam. Uday became its leader after Saddam hat put him in charge of the group; previously, Uday had complained his brother Qusay commanded elite military units and he himself only a newspaper. In 1996, Uday lost control over the group and Qusay took over control for a short period, until the Fedayeen Saddam returned to Uday’s control. Within the Fedayeen Saddam was an off-shoot, Fidayi or death squadron, which acted as a brutal militia within the Fedayeen. The Fedayeen Saddam answered directly to Uday, bypassing the military chain of command. The operational leader was General Iyad Futiyeh Rawi, a Saddam loyalist (The New York Times 2003). Uday used the force for personal ends (Council on foreign relations 2005).
Weapons and Training: The Fedayeen Saddam had machine guns, rocket-powered grenade launchers and truck-mounted artillery (The New York Times 2003). A news source says the group had 32kg swords. It received training to handle riots. The Iraqi intelligence service Mukhabarat trained some Fedayeen members in espionage, sabotage and Turkish language.
Size: The PGM started with around 10,000 to 15,000 troops (Council on foreign relations 2005). A news source reports it had 25,000 men upon its creation in 1994. Yet another news source says that while it was founded with 10,000 to 20,000 men, the number of member was still growing as of 1995. In 1998, a news source mentions a membership of 25,000. In 1998 and 2003 news sources mention a membership of 40,000. This is confirmed by an estimation of membership of 30,000 to 40,000 in 2003 (New York Times 2003).
Reason for Membership: Members were recruited from destitute areas and were given status, uniforms, guns and a basic salary in return for their loyalty (International Crisis Group 2016). A news source mentions that members were actively recruited from students from clans trusted by the regimes. The payment they received was larger than that of regular army troops. They also gained access to food supplies and government benefits. Children participating in Saddam’s Lion Cubs were trained to desensitize them to violence. The best of the Lion Cubs were then asked to join the Fedayeen Saddam.
Treatment of Civilians: The Fedayeen Saddam attacked, tortured and killed opponents (Council on foreign relations 2005). It operated a death squad which conducted extra-judicial executions. The US State Department accused the group of beheading more than 200 women in an anti-prostitution campaign. Many of them were targeted for political reasons (New York Times 2003). In the late 1990s the Fedayeen Saddam were accused of torturing Iraqi athletes who failed to perform on the international stage. The atrocities committed were ordered by Uday.
Other Information: Ethnic membership of the group is inferred via the militia's leader Saddam Hussein, who was Sunni Arab. The group is also known as Saddam fedayeen or Saddam’s commandos. It mainly consisted of university and high school students from clans the regime trusted. The Fedayeen Saddam includes so-called “suicide soldiers” who were ready to become martyrs for Saddam. Saddam’s Lion Cubs (Ashbal Saddam) was the Fedayeen Saddam’s youth wing.
References: Council on Foreign Relations. 2005. “IRAQ: What is the Fedayeen Saddam?” February 3. https://www.cfr.org/backgrounder/iraq-what-fedayeen-saddam

International Crisis Group. 2016. “Fight or Flight: The Desperate Plight of Iraq’s ‘Generation 2000’.” Report N°169. August 8.

The New York Times. 2003. “Q&A: What is the Fedayeen Saddam?“ March 25.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD