In memory of the Nigerian army attacks of July 25, 2014, in which 34 members of the Islamic Movement were killed in cold blood in Zaria, including 3 sons of Sheikh Zakzaky and an Igbo man, we recount how it all started, which with the benefit of hindsight now, appears to have been a rehearsal of the ultimate.
A group of soldiers led by one Lt. Col. Oku opened fire at members of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria on 25th of July 2014 while the latter was in a peaceful procession in solidarity with the oppressed people Palestine, and again the following day 26th July, killing at least 34 and wounding well over a hundred others.
The Annual procession tagged Qud’s Day is a day set aside for a show of solidarity with the Palestinians and all other oppressed people of the World. It holds yearly on the last Friday of the Holy month of Ramadan of the Islamic calendar. It was so declared by the late Revolutionary leader, Ayyatullah Ruhullah Mosawi Khomeini. It has since become an international event, with processions marking the day across the world, including in the United States, the United Kingdom, across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Africa. Here in Nigeria, the procession had held annually for the past 32 years consecutively. Initially, it was held only in Zaria but as participants geometrically grew in numbers, it was decentralised. As a result, for the past few years in Nigeria, the processions have been carried out in various towns and cities across the country. This year the processions were simultaneously held in at least 24 towns across Nigeria. It was only in Zaria that the peaceful procession, however, was targeted and brutally attacked.
This was not the first attack on the Qud’s day procession in Zaria or Nigeria. As far back as 1998, the procession was attacked by Police as the procession came to a close at the Tudun Wada Mosque Zaria. Then, one lady called Halima Umar was killed. In 2009, the procession in Zaria was attacked by policemen around the Kofar Doka area. AbdulRahaman Isa Adepoju and Muhammad Musa Jaji were killed. In 2002 the Qud’s procession in Kano was attacked by policemen and as a result, six men were killed. They were Isa Ashiru, Saadu Usman, Abubakar Isa, Mu’azu Lawal, Isa Zakariyya and Abubakar Uba. But by far, this was the most vicious attack yet by the state security forces on Qud’s procession in Nigeria.
There were signs that the security forces were plotting something sinister. The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Shaikh Ibraheem Zakzaky had variously been targeted for an attack either as he went for one function or the other outside his home. These attempts were either foiled or they out rightly failed. In the Holy month of Ramadan, it was quite obvious that these attempts were escalated. References were made to these by Shaikh Zakzaky in his public speeches and sermons. Although attempts at hitting the Shaikh were unsuccessful, apparently they had laid the foundation to hit the movement in the most devastating ways yet, and where it hurts.
Zaria Quds Procession 2014
This year’s procession commenced as usual about 2:00pm from the Sabon Gari Juma’at mosque after the Friday prayers. It marched through the central area of the town and by about 4:00pm, the head of the procession had reached the termination point at the Eid praying ground around Kofar Doka. However, the tail end of the procession was yet at PZ area because of the mammoth turnout and participation. Participants consisted of men, women, young and old. Even the physically handicapped were in the procession. Some were in vehicles or on bikes and motorcycles as most were on foot. They were in rows and columns for ease of mass crowd control. They chanted slogans, waved flags and held banners with inscriptions depicting the purpose of the march. As they went through the town, people had come out to watch with admiration. There were great signs of an organization; after every other column had passed, they would stop the march to allow people and vehicles passage at junctions and crossings. They had a unit that took care of those with health challenges during the march, including ambulance to pick those who could no longer continue with the procession. The procession was completely peaceful.
The Brutal attack by the Military:
As the procession was being brought to an end with a closing prayer at the Eid praying ground, news filtered in that soldiers had opened fire at the tail of the procession and there were casualties. The tail of the procession was yet around the PZ area about 3km away from the termination point. The shootings had continued and even also targeted those who were returning from the procession after it had been brought to a close. Soldiers had also laid ambush at a sugarcane plantation around the Kubanni area and shot indiscriminately at people returning from the march. By that time, several had either been killed or fatally wounded. Many others were arrested and hauled into military trucks and driven away. Among the early casualties was Mahmoud Zakzaky who was shot by Lt. Col. Oku in the abdomen and pelvis. His corpse was left by the roadside as they sought to shoot and arrest many more. It was confirmed by those arrested at the time that Mahmoud Zakzaky was identified by someone in mufti as Zakzaky’s son before he was shot on the spot. Yet others were shot and killed.
This is the video clip that captured some moments of the horrific attack by soldiers as they shot and killed people:
The corpse of Mahmoud Zakzaky was retrieved along with some few others, but among those taken away alive by the soldiers were 3 other sons of Shaikh Zakzaky – Ahmad, Hameed and Ali.
Military torture and murder of the captives:
Those taken away by the military were initially taken to Chindit Barracks, where according to those that survived the ordeal, they were refused entry. Thus, they decided to drive them to Basawa barracks. During the trip, the soldiers beat them, stamped on their gunshot wounds with their boots and taunted them. At the barracks, they dumped them on the ground adjacent to the clinic. Lt. Col. Oku then asked them who the children of Shaikh Zakzaky were. They identified themselves and were separated from the others. Their handsets were confiscated at that point and were shot by him. He left them with the other soldiers and went to bring more. In the meantime, the soldiers had continued to torture and taunt them. They told them that when they get their father, that would be the treatment they would mete out on him. No attention was given to their bleeding and painful wounds.
A senior military officer who came to pass by the place asked who they were. He was told by the soldiers that they were “Shiites who were fomenting trouble in town”. He ordered them to take them to the hospital, seeing that they were bleeding profusely. They loaded them into their trucks and made their way towards the gate, but were met at the gate by Lt. Col. Oku, who ordered them to be brought down again. By that time, it was getting dark. So military trucks and some Hillock vehicles’ headlamps were used to illuminate the place as the soldiers snapped pictures and captured video of their victims. It was only then that he said they should be taken to the Teaching Hospital in Shika. He, however, told the soldiers to make sure they were dead before arrival. They were stacked one above the other in the military vehicle. Ahmad Zakzaky was gasping and was placed below his brother, Ali. Each time Ali tried to move so his brother could breathe, he was stamped on by the soldiers, who continued the torture of their captives. In one such instance, Hameed raised his hand to protect Ali from the brutal blow by a soldier. He was tortured until he gave the ghost. By that time Ahmad was also dead.
By the time they arrived at the hospital about 4 to 5 hours after their arrest, 11 people were dead including 2 of Shaikh Zakzaky’s children, one was unconscious while 4 others had very fatal injuries. Apart from the gunshot wounds, there were obvious signs of torture all over.
The first military attack on Hussainiyyah Baqiyatullah:
The following day Saturday 26th July 2014 some soldiers yet again went to Hussainiyah Baqiyatullah and opened fire at members of the Islamic Movement without warning, further killing 3 and wounding many others. There was no procession there and members were within the premises of the centre. They came in 2 hillocks, 1 truck and 1 armoured personnel carrier from the PZ area and opened fire on arrival without warning.
On that Saturday, soldiers had taken additional casualties to the Teaching Hospital in Shika. There were 6 critically injured men and 3 additional corpses. All were part of their victims the previous day.
Sheikh Zakzaky addresses a Press Conference:
Although Shaikh Zakzaky had given an interview to the Hausa service of BBC, which was aired in their early morning broadcast, it soon became obvious that the World needed to be updated on the happenings. As a result, a World Press Conference was summoned and was addressed by Shaikh Zakzaky.
By the afternoon of that Saturday, the number killed was well over 30. While some corpses were retrieved by the Islamic Movement, quite a number still remained in the custody of the Teaching Hospital mortuary officials, who were instructed by the soldiers not to release them. Thus, the funeral rites of those killed were done in batches. The first batch was for 17 people, which was held on Saturday. The second batch of 13 people was conducted on Sunday and finally, the funeral rite of 3 of Shaikh Zakzaky’s children was conducted. Thousands of members of the Movement, friends and well-wishers had attended the occasion.
The 3rd-day prayers for the repose of the souls of Quds Day martyrs took place at the residence of Sheikh Zakzaky on Monday the 28th of July 2014 (2/Shauwal 1435).
The prayer was led by Hujjatul Islam Abdullahi Zango.
Prayers were also offered on the seventh and fortieth days with several people in attendance including Ibrahim Gashash.
The 7th-day prayer held on 1st-08-2014 in Gyellesu, at Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence, with Qur’anic recitation, reading of some selected prayers such as Jaushan Al-Kabir among others.
The 40th-Day Prayer held at the martyrs’ cemetery, (Darul Rahama) in Zaria on 3rd September 2014. The prayer event was well attended. Among the attendees are the families of the martyrs, those that were injured in the incidence and a team of visitors from the Holy Tomb of Imam Rida (AS) in Mashhad, Iran. Others who attended include Pastor Yohanna Buru and many other dignitaries. Prayers and Ziyarats were offered, including the Ziyarat of Imam Husain (AS) and Du’a’ul Alqama, just to mention a few.
Sunday, July 27th was Eid Day. For members of the Islamic movement and sympathisers, there were, however, no festivities. Everyone was in mourning mood. Sheikh Zakzaky led the Eid prayers at Hussainiyyah Baqiyatullah and later gave a sermon.
The response of the World was unprecedented. Condolences poured in from all nooks and crannies of the World. Friends, well-wishers as well as sympathizers were not left out. They came from far and wide to pay condolences to Shaikh Zakzaky and the Islamic Movement. Others sent letters or emissaries. Some called or sent SMS and many more came in person. Muslims, Islamic scholars, Christians, Christian leaders and organizations, Community leaders, Politicians as well as top government functionaries present and past all came calling. Others included diplomats, foreign dignitaries, Media, Human Rights groups and other non-governmental organizations.
A few notable examples are as below:
CAN, other Christians commiserate with Sheikh Zakzaky
Christian Association of Nigeria (CAN) extended condolence to the Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky over the shooting of over 30 members of the Movement, including 3 of the Sheikh’s sons. The CAN President, Ayo Oritsejafor, in a telephone call extended the association’s sincere condolence and sympathy over the murder, which he described as unfortunate.
Mr. Ayo prayed Allah to grant the deceased eternal rest and Sheikh Zakzaky the fortitude to bear the huge loss.
Condolence message from the Youths wing of CAN was also received. In a letter signed by the Chairman of the Youths Wing Christian Associatioin of Nigeria (YOWICAN) North -East Zone, Evang Musa D. Misal, the young Christians expressed their condolence on the killings. “Your excellency we send greetings and salutation to you with heart full of grief and at the same time condoling you over what happened to your students among them your three sons,” the letter stated. The Christian youths also commended the matured way Shaikh Zakzaky handled the situation with patience and vision even in the face of extreme provocation.
Over the course of time, many other Christians and their leaders paid condolence visits. Rev Ishaku B. Halilu of Nasara Baptist Church Tudun Wada Zaria was one such person. Accompanied by church members, he sympathised with Sheikh over the lost which included three of his sons. He further prayed for God to give the Sheikh the fortitude to bear the loss while praying further for God to take revenge. His eloquent speech on the occasion was captured on video:
Top Nigerian politicians among whom were former Speaker, House of Representatives, Ghali Umar Na’abba, former governors Senator Ahmad Mohammed Makarfi, Col. Lawan Gwadabe, and Mahmud Shinkafi were among those who paid condolence visits. Representatives of Kaduna State Government led by the SSG, delegation from the Katsina State House of Assembly all also paid separate visits to commiserate with Sheikh Zakzaky at his Gyellesu residence. A legislator with the Kaduna State House of Assembly Muhammad Ali, Malam Nasir El-Rufa’i.
Arewa Consultative Forum also visited Shaikh Zakzkay in his home in Zaria to offer their condolence.
Veteran Journalist Adamu Adamu and Group Chairman, Leadership Newspapers, Mr Sam Nda Isaiah, among others paid condolence visits to Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky at his Gyellesu residence. Sam Nda Isaiah, who was accompanied by a contingent of pressmen, described what happened as a national tragedy that calls for global concern and response. He explained that the unfortunate event was openly challenged by even a non-Muslim, whom in the event lost his life while another non-Muslim girl was receiving treatment.
He specifically commended the exemplary and rare leadership attribute displayed by Sheikh Zakzaky in the face of the tragedy. “We commend your leadership attribute and dignity you exemplified. We wonder how many leaders could contain this and remain calm, even when they lost 3 of their children this way. We are very proud of this attribute. If leaders were like you, the world would be a better place to live”, he said.
He pointed out that, the government must see this as a challenge, stressing that they would never keep quiet in the face of this atrocity, saying that it is dangerous to keep quiet in this situation.
The renowned publisher, therefore, called on the media to press on the issue through the continuous update of the situation until justice is done. “Even during the Abacha period there was right to peaceful demonstration and we said we are in a democracy. It is therefore very dangerous to allow this pass on as so many have passed in this country”, he added.
Others included the team of Rariya Newspaper led by Auwal Anwar.
In the meantime, Weekly Trust on Saturday, July 26th further exposed who Colonel Oku was and the animosity that is bottled up in his chest.
The international news magazine Crescent-online in its edition of Wednesday, July 30 wrote that “The zionists are slaughtering innocent Palestinians in Gaza while their agents around the world are busy killing those that protest such crimes. This is what happened in Nigeria when the army opened fire on Quds Day rally participants killing 25 instantly. Another 12 people were arrested and executed at an army compound. The dead included three sons of Mallam Ibrahim Zakzaky, leader of the Islamic movement in Nigeria.”
The Igbo community in Zaria was severely affected in the brutal attack by soldiers as well. Among the killed was one Chief Julius Anyanwu, the chairman of the Electronics Traders Union on Park road, who questioned why soldiers were shooting at defenceless civilians. He was gunned down by a soldier for poke-nosing in their affair. His abdomen was ripped open and he died before he reached the hospital. The soldiers then rained bullets on the shops as the terrified salesmen scampered for cover. Chibuike Chibueze, a 21-year old salesgirl was not as lucky. She was hit by a bullet piercing through the metal door where she took cover and into her arm and chest. She survived after hospitalization. The Igbo traders on Park road also incurred heavy financial losses through damages to their goods by bullets.
Nevertheless, the Leader of Igbo Community in Zaria Igwe Chief Unogu the Sixth and members of his Council paid Shaikh Zakzaky a condolence visit. They sympathised with the leader over the killing by Nigerian soldiers of 34 people including his 3 sons and their kinsman. Chief Unogu explained that what affects Mallam really affects them, because of his invaluable contributions to the peaceful co-existence of Igbo Community in Zaria. “Your grief is our grief,” he told the Sheikh.
Religious and traditional rulers:
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.
Sheikh Murtala Abul Fathi from Maiduguri paid a 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 of July, by the 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 defenceless 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 the prosecution of those responsible for the murder of the peaceful protesters. The government later summoned the 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 paid a 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 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 Khamenei condoled Sheikh Zakzaky:
The Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, Ayatullah Sayyid Ali Khamenei 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 honour of the Muslim Ummah. Unequal and unjust systems are dominated the entire world that they feel proud of Infanticide and carry out the 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 Khamenei has reached us in deep sorrow and anguish”. The statement concluded: “We call on the Nigerian government to arrest those responsible for the aggression and prosecute them according to the law in order to console the families of the martyrs as well as the general public”.
Ayatollah Gorgani and Hezbollah have also sent their 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 Khamenei (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 Khamenei.
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 a 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 a 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, the Nigerian government is awarding contracts amounting to a 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 a war situation. “Such conducts by the military that are expected to exhibit a 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 the 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.
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 gravesite 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), Prof 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. Prof 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 Shaikh Zakzaky, and wounding over a hundred others.
The special hearing in November this year:
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 the session. Facilitated by the fact-finding team of the Islamic Human Rights Commission, the presentation was made live on the internet via skype through a 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 a 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 pieces of evidence. The Islamic Human Rights Commission made some recommendations at the session, which it says it would vigorously pursue.
Nigerian Government Response
From the day that the soldiers opened fire on peaceful demonstrators in Zaria, it took over 3 days for any arm of the security forces to make any public statement as to what happened, and even then after so much public outcry. However, the military had continued covertly to further perpetuate its agenda and even try to cover its track or at worst, cook up an alibi in case it was needed. One of such was a secret memo raised by one Brig-Gen BA Fiboinumama from the Army depot in Zaria and sent to Defence Headquarters in Abuja. In this hastily drafted “Special site report,” the Brig-Gen wrote that a certain “Zaria based Islamic cleric and leader of Shiite, sheik el zazaki and his followers unlawfully engaged in an act of civil disturbance while protesting on-going conflict between state of Israel and Palestine.” As if to explain how it became a military matter if it was a “civil disturbance,” he further stated that “the sect members armed with dangerous weapons attacked innocent civilians, including soldiers…”, and went ahead to allege that “sect members also attempted to disarm some of the soldiers.” Clearly, this so-called Brig-Gen is so daft to realise that allegations such as these would hold no water anywhere, especially in this age of full video coverage of events, which would show clearly peaceful nature of procession prior to arrival of soldiers, who were those armed with dangerous weapons and who were those who also attacked innocent civilians.
Nevertheless, he went on to say that the soldiers acted in “self-defence” and that soldiers engaged them in “exchange of gunfire.” The memo also referred to the demonstrators as “enemy forces”, among whom he said 10 were killed in action and 2 wounded in action. He also referred to those they arrested as “prisoners of war” and listed their numbers like 13. He said there were no casualties on the side of the soldiers and that their morale was high. Evidently, the soldiers went to war and it was clear the amount of brute force the soldiers used against those they labelled enemies! As the public condemnation continued, the Army spokesman was forced to make a statement. He said that the military had set up a board of inquiry to look at the circumstances that led to the incidence.
The BOI was headed by one Col. L. Benjamin. In a letter dated August 8th, Sheikh Zakzaky was invited to appear before the Military Board of Inquiry or send a representative. The Sheikh chose to send a representation of Dr Abdullahi Danladi with three others with his reply to the invitation. The sitting took place at Sabon Gari Local Government headquarters on Thursday 14 August 2014. It lasted for about four hours. Dr Danladi presented to the Colonel the Sheikh’s 2-page reply, which was read at the commencement of the sitting.
In the reply, Sheikh Zakzaky stated:
“Dear Colonel, Peace upon those who follow the guidance. Your letter…is referred. In it you invited me to either appear or send a representative to your board of inquiry “to unravel the circumstances that led to” what you called “exchange of fire” between soldiers and what you termed “followers of Shi’ah Islamic Sect” during a procession in Zaria! Going through these lines it appears you have already written your report before making any inquiry. You have already concluded that there was an “exchange of fire” between two parties! On one part you have the soldiers and on another, you have “followers” of a certain “sect”!” Having laid down his doubts that the board would do any justice, Shaikh Zakzaky went on to correct some of their erroneous views about himself and the Movement. “Please be informed that I do not believe in a sect, I have never been a member or follower of a sect, I am not one and I will never ever be. Similarly, all the thirty-three people murdered including my three undergraduate sons and over forty injured are not followers of a sect. In none of my speeches or writings for the last forty years, one can deduce the idea of referring us to the idea of a sect. It will be mischief on the part of anyone to call us with names we do not call ourselves with.”
He went on to explain about the procession of Quds. “As for International Quds Day celebrations participants cut across religions, faiths and ideologies. In Europe and the Americas, participants include Muslims, Christian, Communists and even Jews including some Rabbis who support Palestine’s cause. In Nigeria Muslims and Christians including some pastors took part in the procession on 25th July 2014. What took place in Zaria on that fateful day was a massacre by soldiers against citizens they were employed to protect. Anyone who attempts to cover up or justify the actions of these killer soldiers will be a partner in their crime.”
He further restated his doubts that the BOI would do justice in the concluding part of the reply. “While I do not expect you to be an umpire in investigating a crime committed by your colleagues in uniform, all the same, I am sending a representation of Dr Abdullahi Danladi, a University don, to be assisted by Sheikh Abdulhamid Bello, Chairman of Shuhada (Martyrs) Foundation, Dr Shuaibu Musa, a physician, and Barrister Bello Jahun, a legal practitioner. I appreciate your kind regard and respect but I also expected a word of condolence.”
Criticisms of the attack by soldiers had continued. The security forces had sought to turn the tide of sympathy against the Islamic movement. First was yet another security alert covertly sent to all security formations nationwide. In it was an allegation that members of the Islamic Movement were about to attack security formations nationwide as revenge. One such false flag emanated from Zamfara state unit of the State Security Services (SSS).
At the same time, they used the medium of a newspaper The National Daily of Sunday, 03 August 2014, which carried an article titled “My sons’ blood cry for vengeance — El-Zakzaky” written by one Shehu Daud.
In a swift rejoinder, the movement debunked the story. It said, “We believe the write up is not only a sponsored campaign of calumny but also done with ill intent.” The rejoinder further stated that “At no point in the history of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has it taken arms against the state or anybody. Perhaps the state security is planning to carry out some masked misdemeanours and attribute them to the Islamic Movement just they like do in the name of Boko Haram.” This, the Movement insisted, was never going to happen since “unlike Boko Haram, the Islamic Movement in Nigeria under the able leadership of Sheikh Zakzaky is not a making of the state. So it cannot be twisted or hijacked” and also that the government should forget the idea that the Movement “can be manipulated or dragged into armed struggle.”
All these were countered by the Movement, through vigilance and timely and appropriate rejoinders, debunking such claims.
President Goodluck Jonathan Called to apologize:
The whole thing soon became a conundrum for the government, whose continued silence and inaction was being continually challenged not only locally but internationally as well. The government could neither give a satisfactory explanation nor wish it away. It was then that the President, Goodluck Ebele Jonathan, put a call across to Sheikh Zakzaky after 24 days of the occurrence of the event. The President said to the Sheikh “sorry”, but the Sheikh replied that it was not an issue of being merely sorry. He told Jonathan that a crime has been committed by someone who is known but is allowed to go scot-free. What ought to be done is to investigate the crime, arrest and arraign the criminal and appropriately mete out punishment after conviction. The president was not ready to toe that line.
Subsequent plots to assassinate Sheikh Zakzaky:
It seems fairly certain however that the government is insistent on nailing the Shaikh and the Islamic Movement by whatever means rather than view this as an embarrassing albatross. In one of several attempts at turning the table against the Movement, the Military had carried out several attempts at Sheikh Zakzaky’s life since the occurrence of the incidence of July 2014. In at least two of such occasions, shots were actually shot as the convoy of Sheikh Zakzaky passed by as he went for one activity or the other outside his home. Both incidences occurred at the same Park Road roundabout near PZ, the very place they started the shootings in July.
Perhaps the most desperate attempt at turning the table against the movement was the plot that was botched when it was exposed on Monday 29th September 2014. In that diabolical plot by the military, soldiers were to wear dresses that would make them appear like members of the Islamic Movement at about the time when Shaikh Zakzaky was to pass on his way to Hussainiyyah for his weekly teachings. These armed soldiers masquerading as members of the Islamic Movement (their lookalikes) would now open fire on other soldiers returning from training or some other functions, and this would then be captured on video as members of the Islamic Movement have opened fire on soldiers. That was to be used as evidence that the Islamic Movement also carries arms, and also has started attacking soldiers as a retaliatory move against what was done to them. This was widely reported in news media and Sheikh Zakzaky granted BBC Hausa service an interview explaining how that plan was thwarted.