18/12/2015 8:23 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

Indians Protest Against Nigerian Army's Killings Of Shia Muslims

Ripples from the unrest in Nigeria are being felt in India, as Indian Shias across cities staged demonstrations against the Nigerian government for the alleged killings of hundreds of Shias and the illegal arrest of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, one of the country's top Shia clerics and founder of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMS).

In Delhi, a procession of protestors was led out from Teen Moorti to Chanakyapuri police station area. Also, a memorandum was carried to the Nigerian Embassy in New Delhi requesting their cooperation in the same. The protestors condemned the killings in Nigeria and also demanded the release of Sheikh Zakzaky.


Protesters in New Delhi; Photo: Aoun Naqvi

A similar protest took place in J&K as well on the same day, under the banner of Anjuman-e-Imamia, Jammu and All Ladakh Muslim Association (ALMS), where they raised slogans against the Nigerian government and also alleged that the world has been totally silent on atrocities against Shias in Nigeria.

Anjuman president Amanat Shah said, "We condemn the killings in Nigeria, which shows that the Nigerian army is also acting like Boko Haram. The United Nations (UN) should take notice of the brutal murder of hundreds of Shias, which is still going on."


Shias in Kashmir condemning the killings and demanding the release of Sheik Zakzaky; Photo: AP

Anjuman secretary Prof Sujat Ali Khan, said the Shia community from Jammu and Kashmir would submit a letter of protest to the High Commission of Nigeria. "This act of the Nigerian army against Shias is no different than what evil forces of Boko Haram and the ISIS are doing in other parts of the world."

Notable Shia cleric Maulana Kalbe Jawwad also condemned the killings of Shia Muslims in Nigeria and wrote a letter to the Nigerian Ambassador conveying his anger and anguish.

Nigerian massacre

On 12 December, Sheik Zakzaky led a protest against the Nigerian Government in Zaria, a city in Nigeria. During the protest, the government alleged that an army general's car was hit by a projectile in an assassination attempt. In response, the government launched an offensive targeting the Sheikh and his followers for the next three days.

Sheikh Zakzaky was wounded and later captured by Nigerian army and his wife and son were reportedly killed. In an interview to Iranian News Channel Press TV, Ibrahim Musa, spokesperson of the IMN said that there are over 800 bodies lying in the mortuary of Ahmadu Bello University Teaching hospital, among them 87 women. He also said that some of the corpses are in army barracks and are yet to reach the hospital.

Who is Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky?

Zakzaky is the spiritual leader of the IMN, Nigeria's most prominent Shia Muslim movement. Of Nigeria's 180 million population, 50% is Muslim, a small minority of which belong to Shia Islam.


Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky

Zakzaky began promoting Shia Islam in 1979 at the time of the Iranian revolution, in the hope of establishing an Islamic republic in Nigeria along similar religious lines. He has been detained several times under military regimes in Nigeria during the 1980s and 1990s and is still viewed with suspicion by the Nigerian government. The IMN is backed by Shia-dominated Iran and its members often go there to study. Incidentally, Sunni extremist group Boko Haram condemns Shias as apostates who should be killed

In 2014, at a pro-Palestinian rally in Zaria, 34 protesters were killed by the Nigerian army, including three of Zakzaky's sons. At the time, the army claimed that it was acting in self-defence.

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