Nigerian police open fire on Arbaeen procession

Ashura procession, Abuja, 10 September 2019


Police in the Nigerian capital Abuja have opened fire with live ammunition at a peaceful procession of Shia Muslims marking the annual 40th day anniversary of Ashura.

The marchers were fired on as they started the march after Friday prayers at one of the city’s main mosques.

Police are reported to have fired in the air but one participant was hit with a tear gas canister aimed directly at the procession.

Today’s police attack comes amid raised fears 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, most of which are scheduled for tomorrow.

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 is holding vigils on 18 October at 20:30-21:30 and 19 October at 10:00-12:00 outside the Nigerian High Commission in London to pressure the government into ending the violence against the Islamic Movement of Nigeria.

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

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