14, November 2016
Nigerian forces have opened fire at a group of Shia Muslims holding a demonstration in preparation for the upcoming Arba’een mourning rituals, which mark 40 days after the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein, the third Shia Imam.
Soldiers blocked the road and fired live rounds and tear gas to disperse hundreds of people, including women and children, marching in the northern city of Kano on Sunday. The Islamic Movement in Nigeria (IMN) said that one person was killed and several others were injured during the incident. According to the IMN, the peaceful demonstration is still underway despite the government’s attempts to stop it.
Followers of the IMN have been under a heavy-handed crackdown since last year when the army attacked a religious ceremony in their stronghold of Zaria in the north. Hundreds of people were killed and more, including the movement’s leader Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, were thrown behind bars.
Last week, the movement said it had received information that the Nigerian army was planning to attack Arba’een processions scheduled for November 20. Meanwhile, the London-based Islamic Human Rights Commission has called on Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari to ensure the safety of mourners taking part in the processions.
Last month, at least 20 people were killed and several others injured when Nigerian forces opened fire at Shia mourners commemorating Ashura, the martyrdom anniversary of Imam Hussein (Peace be upon him). In December 2015, Nigerian forces raided the house of the IMN’s leader Sheikh Zakzaky and arrested him after killing those attempting to protect him, including one of the movement’s senior leaders and its spokesman.
The Sheikh himself was shot seven times during the attacks and blinded in one eye and still remains in custody of the army. The raid occurred a day after Nigerian soldiers attacked Shia Muslims attending a ceremony at a religious center in the city of Zaria, accusing them of blocking the convoy of the army’s chief of staff and attempting to assassinate him. On August 1, the Islamic Human Rights Commission released a report, saying the Nigerian army killed 348 Shia Muslims during the attack on the religious ceremony.