About five years after the Nigerian army’s massacre of the Shiite minority of the country, not only there has been no prosecution of committers and commanders of the crime but also the spiritual leader of the Shiites of the African country Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is illegally imprisoned without trial.
In the shadow of intentional negligence of the government, in the past few months his family and supporters expressed concerns about his health conditions. Last week, his daughter Soheyla Zakzaky talked about the deteriorating health conditions of her father and mother in the prison due to medical negligence, adding that Shiekh Zakzaky suffered stroke twice in the prison. He is also suffering from Septicemia, blood infection or also poisoning, as a side effect of the bullet lead in his body, the daughter continued.
She also highlighted her mother’s need for surgery as she is bears pain from wounds caused by five bullets hitting her body. She held that the authorities reject to treat her.
Sheikh Zakzaky, also the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN), was arrested in 2015 following a raid at his home by the army and police forces in Zaria, a town in the northern state of Kaduna, resulting in several deaths including his son, and deaths. During the raid, the security forces detained Zynat Ibrahim, his wife, too.
Many rights groups and organizations condemned the attack and killing of innocent civilians. However, the government sought to distort the reality about the Zaria crime and accuse the IMN of destabilizing the country. The Supreme Court of Nigeria in 2015 ruled Sheikh Zakzaky’s freedom but the government rejected to release him with a green light from foreign backers. It constantly suppressed peaceful protests seeking his freedom.
Israeli-Saudi secret hands behind Sheikh Zakzaky’s case
One of the highly influential factors deriving the Nigerian government’s pressures on the Shiites and especially their leader Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife in prison is the role played by Saudi Arabia and the Israeli regime, both severely afraid of expansion of Shiite faith and the discourse of the Iranian Islamic Revolution in Africa. To check the thriving wave of conversion to Shiite Islam, they resort to all sorts of instruments, including pressures on the Arab African governments and the promotion of fundamentalist Salafi groups in Africa.
Shortly after the incident, Saudi media published a government statement about a phone call between the Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari and the Saudi King Salman bin Abdulaziz. The Saudi ruler vowed support for Nigeria’s so-called fight against terrorism and rejected any foreign intervention in the Nigerian internal affairs. The phone was deemed apparent solidarity to Buhari and his suppression campaign against the Shiites of the country.
Firstly, the crisis-hit Nigerian government desperately needs financial sources. To attract these sources from abroad and also to draw political support of the Saudis, the attacks on the Shiite minority have been stepped up since then.
Secondly, Saudi Arabia has a key role in the creation of Salafi and takfiri groups in the African country and stands as their bankroller. In 2016, a takfiri group, calling itself “Jama’at Izalat al Bid’a Wa Iqamat as Sunna”, (Society for the elimination of [religious] innovation and establishment of [Islamic] tradition), emerged. According to an AFP report, this group is one of the leading instruments of Saudi Arabia and Wahhabism in Nigeria. Nigerians were admitted through scholarship programs to the Islamic University of Madinah by Saudi Arabia only to graduate as Salafi clergy and go home to promote Salafism and serve this Saudi-centered ideology.
The group was originally founded by Nigeria’s Scholar Ismail Idris in 1978 by Saudi funding. Today the Izala is one of the largest Salafi societies not only in Northern Nigeria, but also in the South and even in the neighboring countries (Chad, Niger, and Cameroon). It is very active in da’wah, or propagation of the faith, and especially in education. The Izala has many institutions all over the country and is influential at the local, state, and even federal levels. The group has been called a Salafist organization “that embraces a legalist and scripture centered understanding of Islam”. David Commins has described it as the fruit of missionary work by the Saudi Arabian-funded and led the World Muslim League, based in Mecca, Saudi Arabia. The Izala group’s manifest fully complies with that of Muhammad ibn Abd al-Wahhab, the founder of Wahhabism whose ideology is obviously anti-Shiite.
The members of the Izala in 2016 contributed to the attack on the Shiite congregation marking Ashura north of the country. Eyewitnesses say that the attackers, while shouting “we do not want Shiites anymore”, torched the houses of the Shiite people. Abdullahi Bala, Izala’s leader, said more than once in official gatherings that the Nigerian constitution does not recognize the Shiites. His close relations to Saudi Arabia and Nigeria government and also anti-Shiite propaganda of his television network are famous.
The Saudi-sponsored Salafi clerics in northern Nigeria have a big role in the provocation of their fans to kills Shiite citizens. Boko Haram, a terrorist group swearing allegiance to ISIS and active in attacks on the Shiites, has special ties to Saudi Arabia. Revelations from various informed sources have said that Boko Haram’s commander Mohammad Yosef several times visited Saudi Arabia.
“Al Qaeda are our elder brothers,” a Boko Haram spokesman told the Guardian in its first major interview with a Western newspaper. In August 2011, he said, “Our leader traveled to Saudi Arabia and met al-Qaida there. We enjoy financial and technical support from them. Anything we want from them we ask them.”
On the other side, the Israelis have common interests with the Saudis in massacring the Shiites. According to reports, Nigeria in the past few years has turned into Africa’s largest trade partner of the Israeli regime.
Tel Aviv is riled by the expansion of the Shiite sect in Nigeria and is extremely concerned that the IMN turns into another Hezbollah in this important African country. In 1993, bilateral relations between Abuja and Tel Aviv started at the request of the Israeli side. They exchanged embassies as a result. Serious relations between the two sides began under President Olusegun Obasanjo in 2000. When Obasanjo assumed the office, the country was grappling with a host of problems. He stretched hands to Europe, the US, and the Israeli regime.
Even another point that highlights the foreign hands’ role in the foundation of terrorist groups in North Africa is that Boko Haram as the African branch of ISIS emerged in the relatively far and quiet and even less Muslim-inhabited region of Borno in the northeast and not in predominantly Muslim-inhabited regions like the southwest or even poor regions of Nigeria.
Zaria crime case was sent to The Hague-based International Criminal Court by the British-based Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC). Although the ICC has so far not taken a serious action, IHCR’s Masoud Shajara told Ahl Albayt news agency that the ICC was ready to address the case if the Nigerian government fails to undertake the legal process. Shajara said that “we have delivered the complaint to the ICC and they have formed the case. The ICC has given the Nigerian government a year to address Sheikh Zakzaky and his wife’s case. This time deadline will end in three months. If the government does not undertake the proceedings, the ICC will step in.”