By Ali Karbalaei

Why are Nigeria's Shias persecuted? 

April 17, 2023 - 12:41

TEHRAN- There is a deafening international silence toward the persecution of one of the most persecuted minority groups on the planet. They are Shias in Nigeria.

They have been facing massacre, killing?, harassment, etc. at the hands of the government for decades.

The Shias in Nigeria are unarmed. They regularly hold peaceful protests calling for an end to the governing system "inherited from the British colonial rule".

Nearly all the protests held by the Shias, particularly followers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), are faced with deadly attacks by the security services.

During a peaceful rally in July 2014 by the movement in the city of Zaria to mark international Quds day, the Nigerian army opened live fire, killing dozens of innocent civilians participating in the march in solidarity with Palestinians.

The Quds Day massacre in Zaria, in the country's north central Kaduna State, led the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim al-Zakzaky to call on his supporters to remain calm.

This was the first major massacre in Zaria.

Despite repeated instances of such killings by government forces over the past years, particularly on international Quds day, July 2014 was the deadliest.

Despite this, Sheikh al-Zakzaky, like always, called on his supporters to stay peaceful.

Al-Zakzaky issued the following statement in which he expressed strong belief that the orders to open fire came from the government. "I am appealing to my followers to be patient and remain calm. After the burial of those killed, we will decide what action to take. I have communicated with the authorities, and they are all claiming not to be aware of the operation. It is my belief that the operation was ordered from Abuja," he stated.

The Quds Day massacre also sparked outrage among NGOs.

The chair of the Islamic Human Rights Organization, Massoud Shadjareh, said:

"This is a heinous act, that sadly is not isolated in the history of this event in Nigeria. It appears that Nigerian security cooperation with Israel grows year on year, with its military targeting peaceful pro-Palestinian activism. It is disgusting. We extend our condolences to the families of the deceased, who must be considered far flung victims of the latest Israeli aggression."

The following year, in December 2015, the Nigerian military committed another massacre in Zaria, again targeting the Islamic Movement. On this occasion troops raided the residence of Sheikh al-Zakzaky himself.

This time, the once again unprovoked attack, was much deadlier. 

Activists say it led to the slaughter of as many as 1,200 Shia Muslims, with around 350 bodies secretly buried in a mass grave amid a government bid to lower the outrage of its mass murder campaign.

Three of Sheikh al-Zakzaky's sons were among those killed. The movement's leader was also shot at multiple times, along with his wife Zeenat.

They both survived but were taken to prison with wide-scale reports of medical negligence until being freed in late July 2021, with the state running out of excuses to keep him and his wife behind bars any longer.

The December 2015 Zaria massacre was once again met with brief statements or almost complete silence by the West.

Following his release, al-Zakzaky gave an interview with Press TV. 

He looked ill and tired as he had languished in prison. A plot was underway to convey an idea that he has lost his charisma. This was what the Zionists had desired. The Zionists wished persecution of the Shias and the silence of their leader.

But the Israeli regime has failed as the movement remains strong and is growing by the day, despite NGOs reporting that another Shia was killed by the military during Quds Day rallies just on Friday.

Despite so many deadly attempts and persecutions, the state has failed to successfully silence the country's oppressed Shia or prevent their activities in support of the Palestinians.

During his Press TV interview, Sheikh Zakzaky said the state’s campaign to demonize the movement only managed to “boost its morale” and reveal its true non-violent and peaceable nature to “the people of Nigeria and the whole world.”

The cleric himself had been arrested four times during the 1980's.

He added that “I believe that if there will be a plebiscite in this country and people will be asked ‘which system would you like? Is it the status quo, which is inherited from the British colonialists or the Islamic system? I’m sure that the majority will choose the Islamic system. [Because] it will be the government of the people after all.” 

This is what the Zionists and the United States are afraid of and that is why the West has given the greenlight to Nigeria to persecute its Shia population.

Then comes the second movement that poses real threat to Nigeria, a Takfiri terrorist group known as Boko Haram.

This group has abducted thousands of school girls as it believes that they should not be allowed access to education.

It has been terrorizing the country's population similar to what Daesh did to the people of Syria and Iraq and is still doing in Afghanistan.

This is where a country would ideally put all its energy and military resources to crush a terror group that has killed more than 350,000 Nigerians and forced at least two million to flee their homes.

Yet until today, Boko Haram continues to spread its terrorist and extremist ideology. On Saturday, police said the terrorists killed at least eleven villagers in northeastern Yobe state. 

On the contrary, the unarmed civilian IMN movement calls for a leadership that serves all Nigerians and expresses solidarity with the oppressed Palestinians. But they are met with unprecedented military force.

Compare the IMN with Boko Haram that abducts school girls and promotes takfirism.

Amnesty International said on Friday the crimes by Boko Haram reveals "the utter failure of the Nigerian authorities to learn from the heartbreak of Chibok and, ultimately, to protect children."

Nine years after Boko Haram abducted nearly 300 students from a girls’ school in Chibok (Borno State), 98 girls are still being held by the terrorists and a slew of abductions have taken place since.

This week, the UN children's agency UNICEF said the “nightmare” continues today as many children are still being kidnapped, forcibly recruited, killed and injured. 

The UN agency added, “We cannot turn a blind eye to the suffering of Nigeria’s children. Since 2014, there have been over 2,400 verified incidents of grave violations affecting 6,800 children."

Again, these are the most vulnerable in the society. 

What many critics are asking the Nigerian state is simply this: Does it want to continue cracking down on the oppressed Shia population to serve the interests of the Zionist lobby in the U.S. or does it want to make serious reforms, serve the nation and put all its efforts to wipe out the terrorist Boko Haram? 


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