Once again members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) were murdered in cold blood by the Nigerian state. According to the IMN, 12 of its members were killed in a nationwide crackdown on Tuesday 10 September.
They were shot dead in Kaduna, Bauchi, Sokoto and Katsina states, as the organisation organised peaceful processions in these states as well as Abuja, Jos, Kebbi, Minna, Lafia, Yola, Gusau, Zaria, Kano, Jalingo, Damaturu, Hadejia and Potiskum, to mark the Ashura, an annual Shi’ite mourning ritual.
These would be the third time in less than a year that members of the IMN would be killed by security personnel, after the massacre of more than 350 of its members at their base in Zaria on 12 December 2015 and the subsequent arrest and detention of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzakky, leader of the group and his wife.
After repeatedly disregarding a court order for the release Zakzakky and his wife since 2016, the Federal Government proscribed the group on 28 July 2019. This was in the wake of the killing of 11 IMN protesters as well as a deputy police commissioner and a youth corps member serving with Channels television, when police opened fire on members of the movement who were protesting the continued incarceration of their leader, on 22 July. Meanwhile, not less than 39 members of the group had been killed on 29 October 2018 during an earlier protest for the same reason.
The IMN was not at the court to defend itself when the federal government sought the court order banning their movement on 26 July. More so, as Anietie Ewang, a Nigeria researcher at Human Rights Watch pointed out: “the sweeping court ruling against the Shia movement threatens the basic human rights of all Nigerians”.
The IMN ban reflects an increasing slide towards neo-fascism of the APC government, which has further been demonstrated with the arrest of Omoyele Sowore, National Chair of the African Action Congress and other activists of the Coalition for Revolution such as Olawale “Mandate” Adebayo and Agba Jalingo from the Coalition’s Ife and Calabar branches respectively.
The state has now moved into a new stage of the more widespread use of repression and illegal detention. Workers organisations and civil society groups must speak out against every manifestation of this turn to tyranny and fight to stop it. We must thus call for an immediate stop to the killing of members of IMN, and manhunt for its leaders, as well as for lifting the illegitimate ban on the organisation.
According to the government when it announced the IMN ban, it had only “outlawed the criminality of the group,” but members of IMN had not been banned from practicing their religion. However, the Ashura mourning is an integral aspect of Shi’ites practicing their religion.
Ashura means the tenth day. Imam Husayn Ibn Ali, a grandson of Prophet Muhammad (SAW) was killed on the tenth day of Muharram, which is the first month in the Islamic calendar, during the Battle of Karbala in 61 AH. And for the past 1,380 years, it has been marked as a holy day of mourning by Shi’ites across the world.
The federal government violated the rights of Shi’ites to practice their religion and further desecrated their holy day by spilling the blood of innocent citizens on peaceful protest. Every well-meaning Nigerian must condemn this despicable action.
It is noteworthy that all this is happening a decade after the state ignited a war with Boko Haram in north-eastern Nigeria with the extra-judicial killing of its leader, Ibrahim Yusuf. Some twenty thousand people have been killed since then in this war, with more than 2 million people displaced.
And the Nigerian armed forces have killed as many people as those killed by Boko Haram. IMN has a more expansive structure than Boko Haram had ten years ago. Continued attacks on the group and incarceration of its leader is an ill wind that blows nobody good, just as much as it is a violation of their fundamental human rights.
We thus call for the immediate and unconditional release of Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzakky and his wife, lifting of the ban on IMN and an end to the killings of the group’s members and the hounding of its leaders.
by Yusuf LAWAL