Continued Crackdown on Shia minority (IMN) during Ashura and Arbaeen  by the Nigerian Authorities: Call for restraint

ASHURA day, 10th Muharram of each Hijri calendar is marked around the globe to mourn the brutal killing of Imam Husain, the grandson of the Prophet. This is done through rallies, lectures, processions etc. Muslims particularly the members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, IMN commonly tagged as Shiites observe this ritual routinely every year. Last year, the procession was conducted on Wednesday 12th October 2016 across the nation. These peaceful processions, however, were attacked in Funtua, Jos Kaduna and Kano. In Funtua and Jos, the attack was from the combined forces involving the Army and the Police. The mayhem was worse in Funtua where the armed personnel used live ammunitions and killed ten (10) Ashura mourners in cold blood with many badly injured. In Kano and Kaduna, a sinister operation was planned where hired hoodlums (some of who were seen conveyed in police vans) wielding dangerous weapons, including machetes, sticks and knives, attacked the mourners. In all the cases there were several arrests of the victims by the Police and the cases are still lingering in courts. For Example in Kano, the Police arrested some of the victims (majority of them women, children and the aged) not the perpetrators but their spokesperson, claimed in public through media that the Police have “rescued” 40 to 50 persons to a ‘safe custody’. Contradicting their claim, the Police took these “rescued” people to court while the hoodlums who were in their vehicles got missing mysteriously!! ARBA’EEN day, usually 20th Safar of each Hijri Calendar is globally marked by trekking to the mausoleum of Imam Husain at Karbala , Iraq, for religious rituals on the fortieth day after his tragic murder. In far away Nigeria, mourners from assigned meeting centers gather to commence the symbolic trek to Husainiyya Baqiyyatullah, Zaria where the flag from the mausoleum of Imam Husain is being hoisted.  Same last year, mourners from the Kano center, comprising of people from Kano and neighbouring states took off early morning on Monday 14th November, 2016 alongside Kano- Kaduna dual express way. Among the peaceful trekkers were men, women, children, physically challenged persons and the aged. Before the trekkers reach their resting point, a combined team of heavily armed security personnel under the Kano State Police Command came in convoy of several vehicles and trucks and attacked the procession using live ammunitions and all other available means. This started at Kwanar Dawaki and extended up to Karfi area along the road. Tens of trekkers and even passersby were killed in cold blood. Up to now their corpses are not handed over to their relatives for proper burial. Even an 8-month old baby Zainab was not spared by State bullets on its armless citizens. This certainly constitutes flagrant violation of human rights and a crime against humanity. Scores were badly injured. The Police arrested 58 victims some with fatal wounds. The case of these victims is still going on in the courts. While other religious groups carry out their activities freely, IMN (Shiites) are being denied that freedom from discrimination. No doubt, these discriminatory acts perpetrated by the State on members of IMN are sequel to the State sponsored Zaria massacre executed in December 2015. In this planned pogrom, the Nigerian Army, murdered 1000+ Nigerians all in a ‘grand finale’ effort to eliminate Sheikh Ibraheem El-Zakzaky and disband the IMN. Kaduna State Government confessed to have buried 347 corpses in mass grave. The remaining figure is still missing under ‘forced disappearance.’ To crown it all, the oppressed Sheikh, together with his wife Malama Zeenat, (They mysteriously survived fatal bullets) are still under illegal detention (nearly 700 days now) even as against a high court ruling to the contrary. It is exactly a year now. Activities of Ashura and Arbaeen had began. These activities are our religious obligations. As Nigerian citizens with rights to peaceful assembly, freedom of association, conscience and expression, we reiterate our commitment to carry such lofty activities just as other religious groups carry out their activities free from any intimidation or threat from the State. To our dismay, we have witnessed the recent attempts by Kaduna State Government to deny us such rights. They dispersed, by force, Ashura peaceful mourning congregations at Kaduna, Kudan and Zaria . These acts of injustice must stop. Based on the foregoing, we therefore urge the following from people of conscience that: Federal Government should be made to obey court order and unconditionally release our revered leader and guardian, the most oppressed Nigerian in history, Sheikh Ibraheem El- Zakzaky and his wife Malama Zeenah Ibrahim. Government (Federal and Kaduna State) should be made to release all our brothers lingering in Kaduna prison and in various known and unknown prisons nationwide. Kano State Government should be called upon to drop the court cases of ‘rescued’ Ashura and traumatized Arba’een victims who were not even supposed to be taken to court. Kano State Government should be made to hand over the corpses of the Arba’een 2016 massacre to their relatives for proper burial. Government (both at Federal and State levels) should be called upon to cease all discriminatory hostilities against the peaceful IMN. Cc: Human Rights groups/ Non- governmental Organizations Embassies Print and electronic media houses National and State House of Assemblies Nigerian Bar Association Respected Nigerians