H.E. President Muhammadu Buhari
President of the Federal Republic of Nigeria
Office of the President
Aso Rock, Abuja
Tuesday 08 November 2016
Dear President Buhari,
The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is writing to you to ensure the protection of worshippers planning to embark on the annual 40th day commemorations of Ashura later this month.
IHRC has received credible reports that the military has laid plans to sabotage Arbaeen processions (as they are known) and inflict violence on the participants, their personal abodes and places of worship.
This includes attacking processions, burning homes and business premises of the participants while they are away, and hiring thugs to assault mourners as they make their way to the processions.
IHRC has learned that some hospitals have been instructed not to take victims of the planned violence. A hit list of prominent members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN) has also been drawn up apparently to be targeted for assassination.
These highly disturbing reports should be as worrying for you as they are for everyone planning to take part in these peaceful religious events. As you know there is a bloody history of violence against supporters of the IMN who will be participating in these events. We are sure you do not need reminding of the massacre of December 2015 when over 1000 people, mainly IMN members and supporters, were killed in an unprovoked pre-planned attack by the armed forces.
In that attack IMN symbols, buildings, graves and leading figures were targeted. Individuals were subjected to sexual violence, many were shot, burnt alive, or hacked to death by the Army. Leading members of the movement were shot and imprisoned without charge. The leader of the IMN, Sheikh Ibrahim El-Zakzaky remains imprisoned to this day without charge, in flagrant violation of domestic and international law.
We would like to remind you that in the five years since the Arbaeen processions started the participants have never once resorted to violence. Even when last year Boko Haram targeted mourners with a bomb in Kano that resulted in the deaths of 32 people the participants refused to be provoked.
These reports of potential sabotage must be seen in the context of the wider campaign of persecution of the IMN by the Nigerian authorities which seeks to prevent the movement and its supporters from exercising their rights to freedom of worship, movement, association and expression.
IHRC calls on you to do your utmost to rein in the military and anyone else involved in these nefarious plans, uphold the rights of the participants and ensure their total protection. Having apprised you of the situation we will hold you personally responsible for any harm that may be inflicted on the persons and properties of Arbaeen mourners.