At least 42 Shia killed in Nigeria after a demonstration turned into a bloodbath

At least 42 Shia killed in Nigeria after a demonstration turned into a bloodbath

Noriko Watanabe, Salma Zribi, and Lee Jay Walker

Modern Tokyo Times

Another massacre against the embattled Shia occurred in Nigeria after two days of bloodshed in the capital of this country. The upshot is more Shia blood flowing after demonstrators demanded the release of their religious leader, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. Hence, Abuja became a city where the Shia were killed in front of people who were filming events – therefore, fellow African Union nations and major Commonwealth nations like the United Kingdom, can’t hide behind not knowing what happened.

Of course, tensions were running high because some Shia Muslims were throwing stones at the police and security forces. Yet, irrespective of the provocations, one side was clearly armed openly with guns and backed by security vehicles – while the other side was calling for the release of Zakzaky and intimidating security forces with stones. Hence, the security apparatus of Nigeria should have acted with restraint and contained the situation without the need of killing so many Shia Muslims.

The Embassy of America in Nigeria is extremely concerned by events. On its website, the embassy stipulates, The United States Embassy is concerned by the deaths resulting from clashes between Nigerian security forces and members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria in areas surrounding Abuja.  We urge Government of Nigeria authorities to conduct a thorough investigation of the events and to take appropriate action to hold accountable those responsible for violations of Nigerian law.  We urge restraint on all sides.”

Reuters reports, Security forces opened fire with live ammunition on members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) who had marched in their hundreds to demand the release of their leader Ibrahim Zakzaky, jailed since 2015 when the army killed hundreds of his followers at his compound and a nearby mosque and burial ground.”

Sadly, the nation of Nigeria is racked by religious and ethnic tensions. This notably applies to the Sunni Islamist Boko Haram terrorist group; the systematic persecution of Christians by the mainly Sunni Muslim Fulani; the revival of the Biafra movement that suffered untold massacres in past history; religious tensions in areas of the North that is governed by Sharia Islamic law; and other notable problems. On top of this, enormous corruption blights the nation and smaller ethnic groups are disillusioned by their natural resources being abused by elites who preserve power concentration based on cronyism. Therefore, the embattled Shia face open hostility based on internal sectarian issues and other factors related to the demands of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

A youth leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, Muhammed Ibrahim Gamawa, stipulated strongly, “Under Buhari’s government any Shia in Nigeria is under threat and can be gunned down any day, any time, any minute.”

The government of Nigeria should note the role of Sunni Muslim Gulf states where funds have been collected to spread Salafi and other extremist versions of Sunni Islam. Similarly, the role of Iran in funding the growth of Shia Islam in Nigeria needs to be scrutinized. Hence, tradition Islam in Nigeria is facing two external trends that are altering the religious landscape – with Christians often caught up in religious violence.

Overall, the latest massacre of at least 42 Shia Muslims, following on from other massacres of this minority faith, will further lead to the alienation of this embattled religious community. Equally, nations in the African Union and the Commonwealth should do more to spread the rule of law in Nigeria – and to support a genuine investigation that will result in change. If nothing happens, then expect another future massacre of the Shia for demanding the release of Zakzaky – or other areas where the Shia feel aggrieved.

Modern Tokyo News is part of the Modern Tokyo Times group

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