By Batool Subeiti

Why world needs to speak for Sheikh Zakzaky

July 24, 2019 - 11:9

LONDON - Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), and members of his organization faced a brutal crackdown in December 2015 in what came to be known as the Zaria massacre. It was carried out by the Nigerian Army at the behest of the Nigerian regime and its foreign backers in which over a thousand civilians, mostly followers of the movement, were slaughtered in cold blood and hundreds more were arrested. 

Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife, Muallima Zeenah, were shot during a deadly raid at their home by the Nigerian authorities, in which three of their children were mowed down in front of their eyes. A total of six of their sons have been killed by the Nigerian Army, in addition to Sheikh Zakzaky’s sister, Malama Binta Yaqoub, who was burnt alive, along with many other women and children.

Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife have since then been unlawfully detained, despite the Federal High Court in Abuja ruling their detention as illegal and ordering Zakzaky’s unconditional release from jail following a trial. The Buhari regime in Nigeria has so far refused to set him free.

Worse still, Sheikh Zakzaky has been denied medical treatment, putting his life at risk as a result of grave injuries sustained from previous attacks, in which he also lost sight in one eye and the use of one arm. He has also been subjected to worse form of custodial interrogation, according to his aides. His personal doctor has asked for him to be flown abroad for specialised treatment, which is not available in Nigeria, but this request has not been granted so far.

On 6th of July 2019, his only surviving son Mohammad said he was shocked by his father’s deteriorating health after visiting him, stressing that he needed to be immediately hospitalized as “large and dangerous quantities of lead and cadmium have been found in his blood.” 

“The time has virtually run out. This has always been an assassination in progress, and it is almost done. The assassins were clearly determined to see it through,” he was quoted as saying. 

Since then, the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has announced that it received reports about Sheikh’s health condition and that it had worsened after he suffered two strokes in one week.

Despite the relentless oppression unleashed on Sheikh and his followers in recent years, the international community has collectively and shockingly failed to hold the Nigerian government accountable for its crimes, be it the International Criminal Court (ICC) or the corporate mainstream media in countries that raise the hue and cry over ‘human rights’. This begs the question: WHY? 

It is pertinent to note that while the oppression Sheikh and its followers are facing is being carried out by the Nigerian Army, the Nigerian authorities themselves are being pushed to carry out such aggression by those who view this movement as a greater threat – namely those countries that wish to usurp the rights of others and bully sovereign nations to give into their corrupt demands and narrow interests, whilst waving the banner of 'freedom' and 'democracy'. 

Nusaibah Zakzaky, daughter of Sheikh Zakzaky, when asked why she thinks a movement that is so popular with millions of followers has faced such brutal crackdown, gave a thought-provoking answer: “The Nigerian military cannot just act on their own, they must be following orders. This isn’t the first time they have done something like this, they have been doing it for years and they are never held accountable for their actions. We are the only people in Nigeria that really challenge corruption and injustice. The Nigerian Army views us as a threat; throughout our more than 30 years of existence, we have never attacked anybody even when they attack us.”

Islamic Movement in Nigeria, since its establishment around 4 decades ago, has been raising the banner of justice and resistance in all spheres, which is why it is deemed as a threat by the Nigerian regime, which has been demonstrated by the brutal crackdown on multiple occasions. Surely, the nature of oppression Shiekh Zakzaky and his followers have had to face shows the strength and relevance of such a movement, particularly since oppressors are the corrupt powers. 

The IMN has been known to be a non-violent, non-sectarian Islamic movement for decades, having organised peaceful pro-Palestinian demonstrations on an annual basis across Nigeria for over 33 years, primarily in the state of Kaduna, of which the movement's gatherings have been attacked several times by both Boko Haram and the Nigerian army. 

Every year, the Islamic republic of Iran holds an international conference of Shia and Sunni eminent scholars and other Muslim participants from all over the world under the banner of Islamic Unity Week, which is one of the prime activities the IMN is involved in. Nusaibah Zakzaky says in this regard: “My father has never identified himself as a leader of a sect, or the Islamic movement as a sect. So, in this event, Muslims from all over are invited so that we celebrate our similarities rather than our differences.

Given the nature of this movement, it is not strange at all that the Nigerian army is carrying out such crimes. IMN is one of the many revolutionary movements in the region, such as movements in Lebanon, Syria, Iran and Yemen that is confronting the global hegemonic powers ruling the world and it is most certainly posing a threat to countries in the region such as Saudi Arabia, which feels its legitimacy and authority is being threatened and undermined by such movements. 

Saudi Arabia has taken active interest in encouraging the Nigerian government to curb IMN activity where in early 2018 it sent the Nigerian government $10 million in military equipment. Saudi Arabia has also been active in propagating its Wahhabi ideology in Nigeria, which it believes is an ideology that would sustain its despotic regime, through the establishment of the Izala Society, founded in 1978 with Saudi support to spread the kingdom’s brand of Salafism in Nigeria. The society remains an active promoter of Riyadh’s radical school of Islam and is influential in multiple levels of government. Researchers have identified Izala as a fundamentalist group which shares many theological views with the deadly Boko Haram and the organisation is generously sponsored by Saudi Arabia, and is responsible for stirring sectarian hate against Shia and Sufi Muslims in Nigeria.

Surely, the Nigerian Army needs to be held accountable, however, those who deem the movement a greater threat and are pushing the Nigerian authorities to commit such crimes are equally, if not more, responsible. The silence of Western governments, particularly the British government, which is sleeping over such atrocities and is actively cooperating and supporting terrorist governments such as Saudi Arabia need to be questioned and held to account as well. 

The West is surely looking with a microscope at such a movement that threatens their manipulation in the region, and it is their overt and covert backing which is the main reason Saudi Arabia feels it can act in such a way.

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