Reflections

The Zaria Quds Massacre Of July 2014 And The Role Of The Military 4

In continuation of our commemmoration of the brutal state-sponsored terror attack of July 2014 by the Nigerian military, we continue with our reflection on the series of events that kickstarted what has now been known to be the begining of a well-orchestrated plot to wipe out the Islamic Movement, its leadership and structures in Nigeria.

Religious and traditional rulers Pay Condolesces:
Also not left behind in offering their condolences are another section of the society. Among the many in this category of people that either came in person or called or sent message or delegations are the Emirs of Zazzau and Kazaure. Etsu Nupe sent a message.

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Sheikh Murtala Abul Fathi from Maiduguri paid condolence visit to Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky in his residence on Sunday the 14th of September 2014. He was escorted by the Gado da Masu of Zazzau Alhaji Musa Hasan.
Others who also paid condolence visits include leaders of Meyatti Allah organization from Kano and Sheikh Dawud Onyagwucha from Owerri. Shaikh Dahiru Bauchi and Shaikh Karibullahi all also called.

Global condemnation of the massacre:
Since the news of the military attack, the World reacted in an unprecedented way. Several countries such as Iran, Lebanon, Turkey and understandably Palestine, as well as some South American nations such as Brazil, Ecuador and Bolivia condemned the killing and called for punitive action against the perpetrators. The Iranian government has condemned the murder of peaceful protesters on the 25th July, by military in Zaria. A statement by its foreign ministry spokeswoman, Marzieh Afkham read “The Islamic Republic of Iran regards the armed attack on the Quds day rallies in Zaria in Nigeria as unacceptable and totally inhuman”. She further said “pro-Palestinian demonstrators in Nigeria had been mercilessly targeted just like the defenseless residents of the Gaza strip which has been the scene of the bloody Israeli offensive over the past 20 days”. The statement finally called for prosecution of those responsible for the murder of the peaceful protesters. The government later summoned Nigerian Ambassador to lodge an official protest.

Besides governments, citizens of several countries also showed their displeasure at the brutal attacks. There were rallies and marches in protest. In Britain, the Islamic Human Rights Commission held a vigil at the Nigerian High Commission in London protesting the killings by the military in Zaria. The participants raised placards with various inscriptions such as: “Nigeria Stop Doing Israel’s Dirty Work”; “Nigeria In cooperation With Israel”; “Prosecute the murderers of the peaceful protests in Nigeria”.
In Pakistan, Maulana Mufti Muhammad Rafi Uthmany, director of the Darul Uluum and a trustee of the country’s Arabic institutions in Karachi has led a mass rally of the Pakistani Sunni Muslim scholars in protest of the merciless murder of the members of the Islamic Movement by Nigerian military on Friday, 1st August in Karachi, Pakistan. They called on the Nigerian government and the international community to ensure justice is done and on time too.
Similarly, a prominent organization ‘VOICE OF PALESTINE’ in Indonesia had in the strongest terms condemned the massacre of the peaceful protesters on the International Quds day by Nigerian military. They described the day as a very sad one indeed and called for justice on the murderers of innocent sympathizers. They sent their deepest condolence to all the families that lost their loved ones especially the leader of the Islamic movement, Sheikh Zakzaky who lost three of his sons.
The Ahlul-bait Foundation in South Africa also totally condemned the military massacre of defenceless and peaceful Quds day protesters in Zaria, Nigeria. A statement by its National coordinator, Syed Aftab Haider made available to the press on the 26th day of July read in part “Ahlul-Bait foundation of South Africa condemns in strongest terms the brutal attack and aggression by Nigerian security forces on peaceful demonstration of Al – Quds day in Zaria, Nigeria. The Foundation finally condoled with the sheikh Zakzaky, leader of the movement and the entire family members of the martyrs.

In Australia, the Ahlul – Bait World Assembly of Sydney, sent its heartfelt sympathies on the horrific killings in Zaria, Nigeria. A letter sent to Shaikh Zakzaky and signed by its secretary Syed Hadi Sadeghi on 28th July, 2014 stated in part “We were deeply saddened to hear the news about the criminal event that happened during the demonstration of the World Day of Quds in Nigeria, which caused the martyrdom of 34 followers of the Ahlul – Bait including your three sons”.
Foreign dignitaries: Many foreign dignitaries came to Zaria in person to commiserate with Shaikh Zakzaky.
Iranian Envoy pays condolence visit to Sheikh Zakzaky: The Iranian Ambassador to Nigeria, Mr Saeed Koozechi, has delivered a letter of condolence to Sheikh Zakzaky on behalf of Iranian government over the brutal killing of 33 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, among them were 3 children of the Sheikh by Nigerian military forces.
Delivering the letter to the sheikh during a condolence visit on Monday the 28th of July 2014, the ambassador expressed deep sadness over the incidence. Receiving the letter, Sheikh Zakzaky expressed appreciation on the visit and the concern shown.
Condolence to Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) from Karbala (Iraq): Sheikh Abdul Mahdi Karbala’i, the Secretary-General of the Holy Shrine of Imam Husain (AS) in the holy city of Karbala has sent a letter of condolence to Sheikh Ibraheem El Zakzaky over the martyrdom of his three sons. He prayed that Allah (SWT) should cover them with His infinite mercy and keep them in His everlasting paradise and give the family the perseverance to bear the situation with fortitude.
In the same vein, Hizbullah commiserated with Sheikh Zakzaky. The Hizbullah Secretary General Syed Hasan Nasrallah, sent a condolence message to the Sheikh in a letter he wrote on 26th of July 2014. Sayyid Nasrallah’s message was in fact the first condolence received by Sheikh Zakzaky among many. The message reads as follows: “Indeed last night I heard sad news that in one of the International Quds Day Processions in your city, the army opened fire on the procession which led to the killing and injuring tenths of people in the procession among them are your three sons- Sayyid Ahmad, Sayyid Hameed and Sayyid Mahmud , may Allah cover them with mercy.
I am sending to you, your honourable family and the entire members of the Islamic Movement my pure and sincere condolence and consolation, and at the same time I congratulate you over the martyrdom of those honourable people who were killed on the Right Path; depending the Quds and in promoting the unity of the Islamic Ummah.
For introducing a d seeing your children in the marching and having them among the martyrs is a thing of pride and honour to the leader and his family . May this be the beginning of the flowing of blessings and honour which Allah has reserved for this type of martyrdom to you, your family and your town.
We consider this as an aggression and whoever is behind it must be prosecuted. The case must be pursued with authority until such bloody crime is never repeated again.
Again on behalf of myself and my brothers and sisters in Hizbullah in Lebanon we condoled all of you over the martyrdom and we pray to Allah to accept them among the highest lovely servants. And May He hasten the recovery of the injured and give you and your family the patience and solace to bear (the pain)”
Sayyid Khamene’i Condoled Sheikh Zakzaky: The Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamene’i also sent his condolence message to Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky over the Quds Day killing of three of his sons and tenths of other people.
The World Assembly of Islamic Awakening Commiserated with Sheikh Zakzaky: The World Assembly of Islamic Awakening, through its Secretary General Dr Ali Akbar Velayati, commiserates with Sheikh Zakzaky over the killings by Nigerian security forces.
In a letter sent the Assembly expressed its condolences over the sad event. The letter says: ” Members of the Supreme Council of the World Assembly of Islamic Awakening and I were deeply saddened by the news of Martyrdom of your beloved children on International Quds Day. My heartfelt condolences to you and your family.
Your sincere efforts to defend Islam and the oppressed in the struggle against Zionism are the international honor of the Muslim Ummah. Unequal and unjust systems are dominated the entire world that they feel proud of Infanticide and carry out genocide of the oppressed Oppressed.
Your human actions and Nigerians in support of Gaza is the big divine test that fortunately you and your family did it well. World Assembly of Islamic Awakening and I want to offer our deepest condolences to Imam Mahdi (P.U.H) and the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei and to all patriots around the world. May Allah give you patience in this time of grief.
I pray your beloved children mustered with the martyrdoms of Karbala and be with our prophet.”
Ahlul – Bait World Assembly: In its letter dated 26th July, 2014 signed by its General Secretary, Muhammad Hasan Akhtary states “the news of the death of your children together with some people who offered their lives for the sake of Allah and for the support of the Palestinian course in a peaceful procession answering the call of late Imam Khomeini (Qs) and Imam Khamne’i has reached us in deep sorrow and anguish”. The statement concluded: “we call on Nigerian government to arrest those responsible for the aggression and prosecute them according to law in order to console the families of the martyrs as well as the general public”.
Ayatollah Gorgani and Hezbollah have also sent thier condolence messages to Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky(H): As people from different parts of the world are commiserating with Sayyid Sheik Ibrahim Ya’akub Alzakzaky (H), the revered leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria, Ayatullah Gorgani, one of the great scholars in Qom, has also sent his condolence message to the great leader of the Islamic movement.
In a similar vein, Hizbullah, Qom branch, also sent their condolence message to the great leader of the Islamic movement, Sheik Ibrahim Zakzaky (H) through the ‘International Students’ Forum of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria-Iran’.

Ayatullah Mohammad Hassan Akhtari ( the Secretary General, Word Assembly of AhlulBayt), representing Ayatullahil Uzmah Syed Ali Khameinei (H), together with
Dr Tabbaraatian and the Iranian Ambassador in Nigeria came to condole Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky (H) at his residence on the loss of his three sons and over thirty others. During this visit, Ayatullah also read a special letter of condolence from the Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatullahil Uzmah, Syed Ali Khamne’i.

Human Rights Groups Response:
Naturally, the reaction of the National and international Human Rights community was both immediate and immense.

A Jos-based Christian Human Rights group, Reach Force Nigeria told BBC Hausa Service that, the arbitrary shooting by the Nigerian military on peaceful protesters was a national tragedy that called for national concern, adding that “This could happen to anyone or group if left unchecked”.

President of the group, Reverend Yunana Oganto said Nigerian constitution has allowed citizens the right to embark on peaceful procession, adding that even if the state government had imposed a ban on procession that of the Nigerian constitution superseded it.
He said, the fact that the people had conducted peaceful procession backed by law, there was no reason whatsoever for them to be shot and killed. “What the security should have done was to give them escort to ensure the procession was peaceful and to guard against bad elements infiltrating it. The fact that they have not done so then there was no reason for them to shoot at peaceful protesters”. Reverend Yunana said, his group was highly disturbed by the incident, and therefore demanded full investigation.
In a related development, two Kaduna-based Human Rights groups Centrum Initiative for Development and Fundamental Rights Advocacy (CEDRA) and Civil Rights Congress (CRC) have joined other concerned groups in calling for full independent investigation into the matter.
In a statement issued and signed by its convener, Dr. John Danfulani said, “Government in Nigeria must know that the dark days of ruling with impunity are over and have no place in a democracy”. Dr. Dafulani, who is a Senior lecturer with the Kaduna State University, wondered how the soldiers could descend mercilessly on peaceful protesters without justification. “The right to peaceful protest in support or against local or international issues is constitutionally guaranteed and supported by many international protocols”,he said in the statement.

Similarly, the Civil Rights Congress (CRC) in Kaduna said, it will employ every legal means to ensure justice prevailed in the atrocities committed by the Nigerian soldiers in Zaria. Head of the CRC, Comrade Shehu Sani, told Nagarta Radio Hausa programme, “Ance-Ka-Ce” on Tuesday that, “if the atrocity on these people is left unchallenged, it would on other people. Therefore this is a collective responsibility to ensure justice is done. We, on our part as Human Rights group will take the matter to any length, even to the United Nations”.

Comrade Shehu Sani had earlier told the same medium shortly after the Quds Day shooting that Nigerian government is complicit in the Israeli brutality against the innocent Palestinians. According to him, Nigerian government is awarding contracts amounting to huge amount of dollars to Israel, which he said Israel is using to suppress and kill Palestinians. He therefore called on people opposed to Israel to be also opposed to the Nigerian government, since they are fighting the same cause.

A human and consumer rights association, the Network for Justice, has condemned the recent killings by the military in Zaria where more than 30 civilians were shot dead. Executive Director of the association, A.S. Mohammed said in a statement that the actions of the military were unacceptable even in war situation. “Such conducts by the military that are expected to exhibit very high level of professionalism and patriotism makes the institution lose its respect and support among the public especially in a city like Zaria which has historically hosted important institutions of the Nigerian Army,” the statement said. The Network for Justice said “Such actions ridicule the government and military of Nigeria as being lawless, uncivilized and criminal in the eyes of the international community.” It demanded that President Goodluck Jonathan establishes “a high powered judicial commission of inquiry to look into this unfortunate incident,” without which “the Federal Government is at risk of being charged to the International Criminal Court for condoning war crimes in a nation that has been traumatised by insurgency, terrorism, and violent crimes.”

Another group that gave their voice against the unjust killings was the Muslim Public Affairs Centre (MPAC), which unequivocally condemned the Nigerian military’s deadly use of force against pro-Palestinian protesters as they staged a march in Zaria, Kaduna State, one of the several states in Nigeria where they held their annual Al-Quds Day Rally. It noted that while the street march went without incidents in others states, over 30 participants were killed in one swoop in Kaduna State, including 3 children of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. Many more were injured. MPAC viewed the gruesome killing of these young men and women and the unwarranted use of extreme force against peaceful protesters as a clear abuse of power and violation of the fundamental rights of the protesters. It stated that “there is no justification for this type of violence under any circumstance and it is the responsibility of the state to protect all of its citizens, regardless of religious affiliation and support.” It held that the Nigerian people should be allowed to exercise free speech and protest in the name of the democracy we made significant sacrifices to enthrone, and they should be able to do this without suffering from a culture of violence that seems to be pervasive in the military profession in the country. MPAC then called on the military to immediately halt attacks against law-abiding citizens and work with all parties to ensure a constructive way forward that will achieve the envisioned peace in our collective fight against terrorism. Stating further that the Nigerian armed forces need to self-reflect on how they view Human Rights of citizens and how they train armed personnel to view Nigerians, their lives and rights.

A Kaduna based Human Rights group, Human Rights Monitor reacted to the so-called institution of a Board of Inquiry (BOI) by the Military after some of its officers blatantly opened fire on peaceful marchers in Zaria.

“We are also of the view that since the army is one of the parties to the conflict and serious allegations have been made against some of its officers, they cannot be then investigator and Judge in their own cause” it posited. The group, headed by Barrister Festus Okoye, concluded that only a transparent judicial process will assuage the feelings of all, adding that present inquiry being conducted by the defence headquarters will not instil confidence in the parties involved.

Amnesty International made reference to the killings in a report, stating that “the heavy – handed behaviour of the military also caused shock waves in Kaduna state in July.” It observed that some members of the Islamic Movement led by Sheikh Zakzaky “appear to have been killed in custody by Nigerian military. They were arrested after taking part in an apparently peaceful protest, in which 21 other protesters including two children were also killed after the military opened fire on them”.

By far the most comprehensive response came from the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). Apart from issuing statements vehemently condemning the cruel acts of the military, it had also organised a vigil in front of the Nigeria House in London as a sign of their opposition to the acts of the military in Zaria Nigeria.

London vigil against QudsDayMassacre in Nigeria

IHRC also sent a team led by its Chair, Massoud Shedjareh to Zaria on a fact-finding mission. While in Nigeria, they carried out a thorough field investigation of the incidence, which included a video-recorded interview with virtually all the victims on admission at the time, medical doctors and hospital administrators, eye-witnesses at the scene and other incidental victims at the scene. They interviewed relatives of the victims as well. They also gathered pieces of items (as evidence) from the scene including bullet pellets and empty shells. They also obtained pictures of damages done to property by bullets as well as video clips of the shootings and that of the peaceful procession before that. They visited all sites of the shooting as well as the grave site of those killed. They wrote a report of their findings, which they presented at a special general plenary session of the United Nations Human Rights Commission in Geneva which they facilitated in September.

Similarly, Access to Justice (AJ) carried out a field investigation into the circumstances surrounding what it called “senseless massacre of defenceless citizens”. AJ has since drafted a report and has commenced building a team of interested parties and groups to seek legal redress for the victims.

The Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC), Dr. Chidi Odinkalu, led a team from the commission for a visit to Sheikh Zakzaky at his residence. He said NHRC will seek all legal avenues and employ all legal mechanisms to ensure the law takes its rightful course over the people killed by the Nigerian military in Zaria on the International Quds Day procession. Dr. Odinkalu said, as citizens of one nation people have the right to exist, their lives and property protected irrespective of creed or ethnic inclination. “We are all children of one country and one Nigeria. None of us chose to be here, but we are all planted here by God for a reason. No parent wants to lose three children at a time. These children could be children of every parent. But it got to a point in this country where losing people no longer matters, where young people can die and nobody cares”.

He assured that the NHRC will ensure justice is done without undue interference from any quarters, as vanguards of citizens in their demand for justice and fair play. The team prayed God to repose the souls of those killed and give Sheikh the fortitude and strength to bear the irreparable loss in order to carry on his mission of guiding humanity.
Meanwhile, the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) has backed its pledge to pursue justice in the case with action. It has concluded plans to hold a special public hearing on the gruesome killing of peaceful Quds protesters in which soldiers cruelly opened fire killing 34 members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria including 3 sons of Sheikh Zakzaky, and wounding over a hundred others.

The special hearing was expected to have commenced in November that year but never did until the December 12, 2015 genocide.

The UN Human Rights Commission held a special session on the killings in September. Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, His Eminence Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky has on Thursday (18/09/2014) addressed session. Facilitated by the fact-finding team of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the presentation was made live on internet via skype through direct link with the UN Headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland. Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky and another key eye-witness were scheduled to appear before the session in persons, but were denied visa to enable them to attend.
The panel brought together members of the fact-finding team and key eye-witnesses; among them was Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky who lost three of his sons in the massacre, and Dr. Musa Shuaibu, a doctor in Zaria who treated many of the victims of the army’s attacks. The panel centred the discussion on ‘the Zaria Massacres and the Role of the Military’ and heard from the two key witnesses, who backed their presentations with clear first-hand evidences. The Islamic Human Rights Commission made some reccommendations at the session, which it says it would vigorously pursue.

To be concluded

Categories: Reflections

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