Frozen butter and the Fedaii

The story of Arash Pouyan

All the names of the Fedaii have been changed in order to protect their identities. This is a work of creative nonfiction based off a series of interviews and some of the original writings of Arash Pouyan. Some parts of the work, including dialogue, the characters and their characteristics, locations and times many not be entirely factual.


After the dry spring of a defeated
Sow the field with mingled seeds
Hide them by the furnace
Scatter them on the land
And watch them grow in silence
Into the future rising.

— From the poem "On the Shore of Fear" by Iranian poet Saeed Soltanpour, executed on July 26, 1981, for being an "enemy of Islam" and belonging to the outlawed Organization of Iranian People's Fedaii Guerrillas


Chapter 1

In prison Arash was 14 years old when he washed his clothes for the first time in his life. They would connect two long wires to an electrical outlet and then tie them to two metal spoons. To prevent an electrical shock from the metal spoons touching each other they would tie a small piece of wood in between the spoons. They would dip the spoons into a five-gallon bucket of water and leave them there until the heat generated from the spoons boiled the water. They would, then, each take turns washing themselves and their clothes. This is how it was for Arash and his comrades in Iran back in the 1980s.

Although he knew getting involved with political activism and the Fedaii—which was the general name for the leftist guerrillas in Iran during the late 60s to the 80s—was dangerous, he never thought he would actually be arrested and tortured. I only gave out fliers and pamphlets—just paper—Arash would think to himself. Not bullets, just paper.

The word "Fedaii" or "Fedayeen" comes from Arabic and loosely translates to "those who would give their lives for the people." There were nearly a dozen Fedayeen, all were nominally Marxist, such as the Organization of Iranian People's Fedaii Guerrillas. However, as is the reputation of Marxists, there were some political disagreements and splits. The most divisive issues was the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who came to power after the 1979 Islamic Revolution and whether he was a friend or foe to the people. Some of the Fedaii supported Khomeini because he, too, stood against the United States. The group that still opposed Khomeini was in the minority so they were referred to as such, of which Arash and his friends were members. The pro-Khomeini Fedaii were the majority in the organization so they were referred to as such. The majority's logic?—that the enemy (the Islamic Republic) of my enemy (the United States) actually is my friend (for some of the Fedaii, that is). It has been said that pro-Khomeini Fedayeen went on to snitch on their former comrades to the Islamic Republic which lead to their arrest and subsequent torture and execution. But Khomeini was not going to let any infidel off the hook, not even the cooperative ones. So they, too, shared the same fate as their former brothers and sisters in arms.

To the atheist guerrilla, there is no heaven or hell. But in moments of deep anguish and hatred they would wish for hell to exist, just for a second, so the snitches could go there and die again and again, each time for every comrade turned over. A traitor's death where even after his body is swallowed by the earth and eaten by the worms, his memory bears the permanent punishment of disgust and shame. There is no lower an animal than a snitch.

But sometimes kids tell.

Even revolutionary kids are kids. Sometimes they are not mature enough to understand such an ancient principle that "snitches get stitches." But it is difficult to uphold principles under torture, as you could imagine. So forgiveness was reserved for them, but only them and only sometimes.





Facundo Rompehuevos is an activist, writer, husband, father and recovering alcoholic and drug addict born and raised in the San Fernando Valley. He writes poetry, fiction and nonfiction. His work has appeared in zines and literary magazines and poetry journals, such as Rusty Truck, A Thin Slice of AnxietyThe Rising Phoenix Review, Red's Not White and Delirium. He has two books of poetry: Irreconcilable Contradictions (2017) and Grabbing the Stars from the Sky (2021), both published by Fourth Sword Publications. He is currently working on his debut novel and a collection of short stories.

You can find him on Substack at

Arash Pouyan was born in 1966 in Tehran. By the age of 12 he participated in the 1979 Iran Revolution. Later on he was arrested for his participation and support of the Fedaii. After three years as a political prisoner, he was released and left to Europe—where he continued his political activism against the Islamic Republic. Afterward, he moved to the U.S. He returned, briefly, to Iran in 2009 to participate in the Green Movement. Today, he continues to keep up to date with the popular movements not just in Iran but all over the world.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Wednesday, January 10, 2024 - 06:31