In an exclusive interview with FNA, Massoud Shadjareh said, “The Nigerian authorities find it very difficult to understand that the IMN for five years day in, day out, five working days a week go out in the peaceful demonstration, even though they are being targeted by teargas or even live bullets… [2015 massacre and daily police brutality] these atrocities have failed to create a momentum of violence by the IMN on one side, and also fails to silence them.”
Massoud Shadjareh, author and human rights activist, is the founder and chairman of the Islamic Human Rights Commission. The IHRC is a London-based NGO working with different organizations from Muslim and non-Muslim backgrounds, to campaign for justice for all peoples. The organization, since 2007, has consultative status with the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs.
Below is the full text of the interview:
Q: Another Ashura day, and another violence against Shia Muslims in Nigeria. Why do the Nigerian forces target Shias on Ashura day?
A: The reality is the Nigerian authorities are concentrating on specific sort of events to unleash further brutality against innocent civilians. They were very peacefully demonstrating and worshipping on the Ashura day, which was not an exception. Just a few days before the Ashura day, Nigerian forces attacked a school where worshippers were gathering to commemorate the Ashura and Muharram. As the result of that, some 16 people were injured and three became shahid. Following that, on the Ashura day, we had further attack on the procession and two immediately became shahid, and a third person a couple of days later died of the injuries. There are a lot of things around this. For example, a reporter (cameraman) who filmed the police of the Nigerian authority putting fire to their own car as a catalyst to start attacking the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, was deliberately targeted and assassinated two days later, on Ashura day. The reason we are seeing these events is to promote sectarianism and also to alienate the IMN and stop them from such activities and movements. The IMN has been continuing the peaceful demonstration, standing up for their right for the freedom of Sheikh Zakzaky, and other issues such as the war on Yemen; but they do the demonstrations very peacefully. The Nigerian authorities find it very difficult to understand that the IMN for five years day in, day out, five working days a week go out in the peaceful demonstration, even though they are being targeted by teargas or even live bullets.
Q: Why Nigerian Shia Muslims keep supporting the Islamic Movement despite the brutality they face?
A: The plot in 2015 was to finish up the IMN; this is not going to be easy for the fact that the Islamic movement are deeply rooted in Nigeria and more than 25-million supporters and members are there. They attacked both the center of the Islamic Movement and the home of Sheikh Zakzaky. Many people perished. The Nigerian government in its own investigation (which was boycotted by the IMN) came to the conclusion that over 400 people were killed and many of them buried in mass graves; but, there was not even an injury on the soldiers or police officers. The government’s investigation reads when asked what weapons the IMN used, the forces said there were 28 mobile phone sim cards and one homemade handgun. The reality is our investigation, highlighting the individuals’ names killed on that day, has come up with the figure of nearly 1000 people. Three sons of Sheikh Zakzaky were killed, and his older sister was burnt alive. These atrocities have failed to create a momentum of violence by the IMN on one side, and also fails to silence them. This is because every working day they go out, and demonstrate. They are standing up, and they are being countered. They are being shot at, and they are being teargassed; but they do not stay silent.
Q: Does the rule of law allow such atrocities to take place against any Nigerian individuals, in this case supporters and members of the Islamic Movement?
A: Nigeria is a country in which the rate of corruption is so high. Whenever a case of corruption is exposed, we see rooms full of dollars or euros people hiding in their homes! So the powerful can break the law so easily, as if the rule of law does not exist. Here, in the case of Sheikh Zakzaky, the atrocity happened in 2015. One year later, the highest court of the country ordered his release and announced Sheikh’s arrest was not constitutional. It also ordered compensation to be paid to him and his wife. It also ordered the security forces to organize accommodation for him and ensure his safety. Now it is five years down the road, and he is still in prison. It is so mind-boggling that how injustice is taking place there; not only for Sheikh Zakzaky or his wife, but also for the family of those martyred in 2015 massacre.