SHAFAQNA – At least 10 people have been killed and several others sustained injuries when Nigerian forces opened fire at a group of Shia Muslims holding a demonstration in preparation for the upcoming Arbaeen mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam.
Shafaqna absolutely and unequivocally denounce such display of violence against unarmed and peaceful protesters. As Imam Hussain called out: “If you don’t believe in any religion and don’t fear the Resurrection Day, at least be free in this world.” (Bihar al- Anwar, Vol. 45, P. 51)
Shafaqna deplores Nigeria’s insistence to persecute religious communities on account their faith do not align with that of their patrons. We will continue to call for compassion, tolerance, and above all restraint.
All lives are precious!
Violence broke out when police tried to disperse thousands of followers of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), who were marching from Kano to Kaduna for the mourning rituals.
“The police arrived and started firing teargas canisters on the procession of Shias to disperse them,” a witness told AFP, adding, “I saw 15 bodies sprawled on the ground before the police evacuated them.”
Another witness said he saw more than “10 bodies being taken away in a police van,” adding, “More policemen are being deployed and a military jet keeps circling the area.”
Nigerian police claimed they opened fire on the crowd after one of their officers was hurt.
The Islamic Movement in Nigeria said late on Sunday that Nigerian soldiers had plotted to block its followers seeking to take part in the protest.
According to reports, soldiers blocked the road and fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse hundreds of people, including women and children, who were marching in the northern city of Kano on Sunday.
Followers of the IMN have been under a heavy-handed crackdown since last year when the army attacked a religious ceremony in their stronghold of Zaria in the north.
Hundreds of people were killed and more, including the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, were thrown behind bars.
Last week, the movement said it had received information that the Nigerian army was planning to attack Arba’een processions scheduled for November 20.
Meanwhile, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission has called on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the safety of mourners taking part in the processions.
Last month, at least 20 people were killed and several others injured when Nigerian forces opened fire at Shia mourners commemorating Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (Peace be upon him).
In December 2015, Nigerian forces raided the house of the IMN’s leader Sheikh Zakzaky and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect him, including one of the movement’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
The Sheikh himself was shot seven times during the attacks and blinded in one eye and still remains in custody of the army.
The raid occurred a day after Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him.
On August 1, the Islamic Human Rights Commission released a report, saying the Nigerian army killed 348 Shia Muslims during the attack on the religious ceremony.