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Alert: Nigerian security forces crackdown on Islamic Movement in Sokoto

20 August 2007

Following the death of a popular Sunni cleric in Sokoto, Shia community is persecuted in the region at the hands of Nigerian security forces.

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Islamic Human Rights Commission
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1. Background

On 18 July 2007, Umar Danmaishiyya, a popular Sunni cleric, was shot in the head whilst leaving his local mosque in a motorbike taxi by unknown gunmen driving a black SUV. He died the following day in hospital. Following the incident, one of the two men suspected of having carried out the shooting was lynched, while the other went missing. In a wake of violence following the assassination, Shia groups were reported to have been attacked in residential areas by mobs carrying machetes, and several homes were destroyed.

The next day, Kasimu Rimin Tawaye, a leading member of the group, the Islamic Movement, was arrested and detained along with over one hundred fellow members. They were charged with allegedly setting up a militia group. The Islamic Movement, which is headed by former IHRC Prisoner of Faith Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, has been known in Sokoto as a non-violent Islamic movement for over twenty years and strenuously denied the allegations.

After ten days of detention, 112 of the detained members were taken to court and charged with ërefusal to submit to authorities and preventing police from carrying out their dutiesí. Kasimu Tawaye and sixteen other members were charged with ëcausing public disturbance, conspiracy to break the law and using armsí; however the case was adjourned until 9 August 2007. But no court hearing was held on the date in question and the latest count reveals that 115 people remain in detention without having been tried. They have also been separated into different groups to be tried in different courts.

It appears that the events have been exploited by the state government to engage in sectarian violence against Shia Muslims in Sokoto. There are reports that the newly elected governor, Aliyu Wamako, had promised to ëdeal with Shiasí in Sokoto; a pledge which allegedly included destroying the communityís Islamic centre. Ironically, the Islamic Movement has thousands of Muslims from both Sunni and Shia schools of thought who are affiliated to it. It is important to note that two days prior to 31 July 2007, the day that the community centre was bulldozed,, Governor Wamako gave public assurances that ëarrangements had been put in placeí to guard against a killing similar to that of Umar Danmaishiyya. The government later justified the demolition, citing contradictory reasons, stating,

ìThe demolition of the Shia headquarters was carried out by security operatives to ensure safety of lives and properties of people residing in the area, and to prevent further outbreak of violence in the stateî...ìAs you are aware, even the certificate of occupancy for the land which the sect use as their headquarters is not genuine, thus the demolition exercise was done to ensure peace and prevent any retaliation from the aggrieved.î

The destruction of the compound included a clinic, school, and two neighbouring homes.

The group has also reported that since the assassination, 6 of their members have been brutally murdered; some were burned alive in their houses while one man was hacked to death and mutilated. These attacks have reportedly been meted out by a combined force of the Nigerian military, Sokoto state police and mobs protected by the police. An increasing number of the groupís residents have been forced to leave Sokoto. 63 homes having been burned down in addition to various shops and businesses and 20 women and 35 children have reportedly gone missing.

The state commissioner of Nigerian police declared on the BBC Hausa Service that there was no evidence linking members of the Sokotoís Shia community to the clericís assassination. Nevertheless, the state government continues to collectively punish the minority sect with detention, expulsion, and killing.


2. Action Required

a) Write to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in your country requesting them to make representations to their Nigerian counterparts concerning this blatant repression of religious minorities.

UK campaigners can write to:

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Fax: +44 0207 839 2417
Email: private.office@fco.gov.uk


b) Write to the Nigerian Ambassador expressing your concern for members of the Islamic Movement in Sokoto and calling for an end to the aggression against them.

UK campaigners can write to:

H.E. Mr D C B Nwanna
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London.
WC2N 5BX

Fax: 0207 839 8746
Email: information@nigeriahc.org.uk

c) Write to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion requesting her to urge the Nigerian authorities to end the religious persecution of the Shia community in Sokoto.

UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
Dr Asma Jahangir
131-E/1
Gulberg-III
Lahore
Pakistan

Fax: +92 42 576-3236
Email: aghs@brain.net.pk


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Sample letters are given below for your convenience. Please note that model letters can be sent directly or adjusted as necessary to include further details. If you receive a reply to the letter you send, we request you to send a copy of the letter you sent and the reply you received to IHRC. This is extremely important as it helps IHRC to monitor the situation with regards to our campaigns and to improve upon the current model letters.


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Sample Letter to Rt. Hon David Miliband MP

[Your Name]
[Your Address]


[Date]

Rt. Hon. David Miliband MP
Foreign & Commonwealth Office
King Charles Street
London
SW1A 2AH

Dear Mr David Miliband,

Re: Expulsion, Killing and Detention of Religious Minority in Nigeria

I am very concerned about the worsening situation in the Nigerian state of Sokoto where members of the Shia community are being persecuted at the hands of the local and federal government. Shia members of the Islamic Movement have been collectively blamed for the recent killing of a Sunni cleric. Since then the police have arrested and detained 115 of the groupís members. Further, many houses have been destroyed, several members have been murdered, and many women and children have gone missing. Some of the groupís members have been burned alive in their homes, while others were hacked to death and mutilated. All this has been reportedly carried out by a combined force of federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

It seems that the local government has used the recent assassination of the Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya as a ploy to indiscriminately attack the Shia community of Sokoto. In recent weeks, the state government has destroyed the groupís centre, clinic and school. Although the state commissioner of the Nigerian police has declared on the BBC Hausa Service that there is no evidence linking members of the Sokotoís Shia community to the clericís assassination, the state government continues to collectively punish the minority sect.

I request you to urge your Nigerian counterparts to call for an end to this religious persecution of the Shia community. Please ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with international human rights standards, and that they are either charged and tried in a court of law or immediately released. I urge you to call for an independent and impartial investigation into the events surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and all subsequent acts of violence including the deaths of several Shias in Sokoto.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,

Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]
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Sample Letter to H.E. Mr D C B Nwanna

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

[Date]

H.E. Mr D C B Nwanna
High Commission for the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Nigeria House
9 Northumberland Avenue
London.
WC2N 5BX

Dear Mr D C B Nwanna,

Re: Expulsion, Killing and Detention of Shia in Sokoto

I am very concerned about the worsening situation regarding the persecution of Shia Muslims in Sokoto at the hands of the local and federal government. The group has been collectively blamed for the recent killing of a Sunni cleric. Since then the police have arrested and detained 115 of the groups members, 63 homes have been destroyed, 6 members murdered, with more than 50 women and children missing. Some of the groupís members have been burned alive in their homes, while others were hacked to death and mutilated. All this has been carried out by a combined force of federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

It seems that the local government has used the recent assassination of the Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya as a ploy to indiscriminately attack the Shia community of Sokoto. In recent weeks, the state government has destroyed the groupís centre, clinic and school. Although the state commissioner of the Nigerian police has declared on the BBC Hausa Service that there is no evidence linking members of the Sokotoís Shia community to the clericís assassination, the state government continues to collectively punish the minority sect.

In carrying out these acts of aggression, the Nigerian government is in breach of the African Charter on Human and Peoples\' Rights and the Constitutive Act of the African Union as well as sections 36, 38, 40, 42, 43 and 45 of the Nigerian Constitution.

I request you to press your government to end this aggression against this religious minority, to immediately and unconditionally release those 115 unlawfully held detainees and to fully compensate those whose homes were destroyed. Similarly, an independent and impartial investigation should be conducted surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and all subsequent acts of violence including the deaths of several Shias in Sokoto.

Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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Sample Letter to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief Dr Asma Jahangir

[Your Name]
[Your Address]

[Date]

Asma Jahangir
UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief
131-E/1
Gulberg-III
Lahore
Pakistan

Dear Ms Asma Jahangir,

Re: Expulsion, Killing and Detention of Religious Minority in Nigeria

I am very concerned about the worsening situation regarding the persecution of the Shia of the Nigerian state of Sokoto at the hands of the local and federal government. The group has been unjustly and collectively blamed for the recent killing of a Sunni cleric. Since then the police have arrested and detained 115 of the groups members, 63 homes have been destroyed, 6 members murdered, with more than 50 women and children missing. Some of the groupís members have been burned alive in their homes, while others were hacked to death and mutilated. All this has been carried out by a combined force of federal military, state police and mobs under police protection.

It seems that the local government has used the recent assassination of the Sunni cleric Umar Danmaishiyya as a ploy to indiscriminately attack the Shia community of Sokoto. In recent weeks, the state government has destroyed the groupís centre, clinic and school. Although the state commissioner of the Nigerian police has declared on the BBC Hausa Service that there is no evidence linking members of the Sokotoís Shia community to the clericís assassination, the state government continues to collectively punish the minority sect.

I request you to urge the Nigerian govenment to end this religious persecution of the Shia community and to ensure that all detainees are treated in accordance with international human rights standards, and that they are either charged and tried in a court of law or immediately released. I urge you to call for an independent and impartial investigation into the events surrounding the assassination of Umaru Danmaishiyya and all subsequent acts of violence including the deaths of several Shias in Sokoto.

I look forward to hearing from you soon on this urgent matter,

Yours sincerely,


[Your Signature]
[Your Name]

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