NIGERIA: Fears rise over ‘massacre plans’ for Arbaeen processions


Fears are rising that the authorities in Nigeria are planning to launch a wide-scale massacre of Shia followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria during upcoming religious observances.

The Islamic Movement claims to be in receipt of information showing that police met with Sunni clerics and traditional rulers to try and recruit their support and also warn them that any continuing failure to cooperate with police to crush Arbaeen and Ashura gatherings would lead to them being dismissed.

According to the Islamic Movement, the police plan also involves recruiting convicted criminals to take part in the killing spree against anyone taking part in this week’s upcoming Arbaeen processions.

If the processions are cancelled and the gatherings moved to homes or other buildings the instructions are to set them ablaze to destroy them and kill those inside.

Arbaeen and Ashura processions have taken place throughout Nigeria for 40 years but in recent times have faced brutal attacks as the government has cracked down on the Islamic Movement and its leadership.

Since 2016 there have been systematic attacks by police and hired thugs resulting in hundreds of fatalities and many properties belonging to supporters of the Islamic Movement being damaged or destroyed.

In July the federal government proscribed the Islamic Movement as a terrorist organisation but protests against the decision and the ongoing incarceration of the movement’s leader, Sheikh Ibrahim el-Zakzaky and his wife have continued around the country. Along with human rights organisations the UN believes that the persecution of the Islamic Movement arises out of official fear of its mass appeal and what it could become rather than any illegal activities on its part.

Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife Zeenah have been detained since the Islamic Movement was subjected to a brutal attack by government forces in 2015 resulting in the deaths of over 1000 supporters, including three sons of the couple. The attack marked the beginning of an official campaign to crush the movement which claims a mass following in Nigeria and has been highly critical of government policies especially vis a vis the United States and Israel.

Since then Nigerian authorities have regularly targeted the peaceful marches and religious gatherings that take place on Ashura and its fortieth day anniversary known as Arbaeen, attacking protestors with live ammunition.

IHRC calls on the international community and the United Nations to apply pressure on the government of President Buhari to immediately cease the persecution of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria and uphold its domestic and international duty to uphold freedom of assembly and religion.

For more information or comment please contact the Press Office on (+44) 20 8904 4222 or (+44) 7958522196[ENDS]

IHRC is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
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