Alwaght- The massacring of the Shia Muslims, which has left many people of the country dead, while not receiving much attention by the international media, on the regional media the news focus about it was limited to presenting some news or analyses without deliberating on the whole case.
The incident which took place at the hands of the Nigerian government has some behind-the-scene and security aspects and objectives yet to be uncovered as the time goes by. According to the Nigerian government, the Nigerian Shiite leader Sheikh Zakzaky along with his family are currently under the siege of the government forces in an unknown place, and there are no precise figures for the number of the victims of the incident.
The Alwaght news website has made an interview with Ismael Shuaib, an eyewitness of the massacre and also one of the close students of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, who had an active role in Islamic Movement of Nigeria, asking him to elaborate on the incident and the covert issues about it.
Alwaght: Mr. Shuaib, following the incident, the Nigerian army accused the Muslims of blocking the road but the survivors and the victims’ families have a different account of what happened at the scene. Do you confirm the army’s account of the happening?
Shuaib: No, I don’t. As you know when the government’s forces attack a place, the justifications and the excuses ensue. Blocking the road by the Shia Muslims was not more than an excuse and a lie. Long before that and generally since the past, the government’s and the army’s forces were waiting for an appropriate opportunity to assault the Shias, because they were worried about the growing influence of Sheikh Zakzaky, as they were afraid that Nigeria could be another Iran in Africa. Finally, last week the army forces attacked the (the Shias) Hussainia. Even after they intruded into the Hussainia, they were asked why they entered, but they did not reply, immediately opening fire at the place. After the incident, we learned from the news outlets that the army had argued that the main cause of opening the fire had been establishing road blockade in the way of the convoy of the country’s defense minister.
Alwaght: When did the firing and the incident take place?
Shuaib:It was around 2 p.m that the army broke into the Hussainia, and it was exactly at that time that the shooting has begun, continuing to the night. There are videos and images available of the assault. After 10 p.m, the army forces moved to Sheikh Zakzaky’s house which is located 10 kilometers away from the Hussainia, surrounding his house and the firing continued for 20 hours. The Sheikh’s home was under siege for two days, and he was there all the time. In fact, the army surrounded both the Hussainia as well as Sheikh Zakzaky’s residence.
Alwaght: There is contradictory news about the exact number of the victims. Some put the number at 500, and some others even put it much higher, do you have a precise number for the victims?
Shuaib: There are no exact figures. Even the army does not know because the area was under siege for two days and all of those present there whether fled or were killed or arrested. Therefore, there is no precise number of the victims or of those detained by the army. Many of the bodies of the victims were left unattended in front of the Sheikh’s house and some people say that it seemed that the shooting left about one thousand victims during two days. But these figures are not precise either because many were arrested by the army. Some informed people in the government suggested that the incident was not irrelevant to Saudi Arabia’s embassy in Abuja (the capital city) and the Nigerian army received the raid order directly from the Saudi embassy. We also witnessed that a Nigeria’s army vehicle which arrived at the scene was carrying non-Nigerian white troops, who opened fire directly on the people. Earlier, some of those on the know had noted that a group of the army’s soldiers were sent to Tel Aviv for training. Given this fact, it seems that the white troops were Israeli.
Alwaght: What do you know about Sheikh Zakzaky’s and his family’s condition?
Shuaib: Nobody knows about Sheikh Zakzaky’s condition. At the beginning, the army said that he was arrested healthy. Afterwards, it said that the Sheikh was wounded and it published his pictures. Still, the military commanders say that the Sheikh is in the hospital in custody, but we can not trust any of their words because they every yime distribute different news. In the current conditions we cannot even say if he is alive. The only news we have received about his family is about one of his daughters, Sohaila, who was set free yesterday morning. Mohammad, one of the Sheikh’s boys quoted his sister as saying that their other three brothers, Hamid, Ali Haidar and Hamad, were killed during the raid. Thereby, so far the Sheikh has lost six of his children. It was also said that the Sheikh’s wife has been shot in the head during the shooting, but no more news is available about her.
Alwaght: As the media reported, after the incident, King Salman of Saudi Arabia called the Nigerian president. How do you assess such a move?
Shuaib: The reason for the issue is clear. The Nigerian government holds close ties with the Saudi government. Earlier, we learned that a group of Nigerian troops had been sent to the occupied Palestinian territories to receive military training, and the dispatch was facilitated with a Saudi financial support and Sheikh Zakzaky had stated the news since Eid al-Ghadeer (on October 2, 2015). After the news spread, we predicted an attack on the Hussainia, and we presumed that the assault would take place in Muharram, however, no special event happened in the sacred month. It was in Arbaeen that a suicide bomb took place, leaving 30 people dead. And, the army offensives and the recent attack followed the Arbaeen.
The current Nigerian government is a new government, aging less than six months. We did not expect the present Nigerian government to commit such a heinous crime but now we learned that the incident was facilitated by the tight relations and financial support given to the Nigerian government by Saudi Arabia.
Alwaght: In past few days there was news about discovering mass graves in Nigeria. Is it true that the mass graves discovery took place after the recent massacre of the Shia Muslims?
Shuaib: Yes, it is absolutely true, and some of these mass graves were discovered recently while accommodating about 300 bodies of victims. These mass graves are an adjunct to the number of victims whom the opponents and enemies burned after the slaughtering.
Alwaght: How have the other Nigerian groups and people reacted to the recent tragedy?
Shuaib: Generally, the Nigerian people have showed so much sympathy with the Shia Muslims following the recent disaster. Among the rest, our Christians fellow citizens offered the most sympathy with us, and the Nigeria’s Sufians also had the Shiite Muslims’ back. On the TV and other media, the people shared their messages of sympathy with the Shiites.
Alwaght: With a consideration of the depth of the tragedy, do you have on the agenda prosecuting the case locally and internationally?
Shuaib: Having in mind that the international legal organizations are mostly under the sway of the Western and Zionist lobbies, we prefer to follow the case legally through Nigeria’s judicial bodies, because Sheikh Zakzaky is of extensive legitimacy and approval among the country’s judicial bodies, as many of the Nigerian judicial figures show a lot of respect for the Sheikh’s personality. Therefore, prosecuting the incident in the Nigeria’s judiciary is more preferable than legally following the case through international legal organizations. But, perhaps some Nigerian activists would personally prosecute the incident through the international judicial bodies.
Alwaght: How much valid are the charges which are raised by some opponents about the illegality of the Shiite Muslims’ activities in Nigeria?
Shuaib: Some of military chiefs in Nigeria have recently said that the Muslims’ activities at the Hussainia Baqiyatallah were illegal. But this is not right. The Nigeria’s Shiites have been active legally in the country for over 40 years. Buying the land and building the Hussainia was totally legal.
Because it is impossible to construct a building illegally in a 1,000 meters piece of land. Essentially, it is the Sheikh’s slogan that all of our activities must be legal and legitimate. The Sheikh always says that even when you buy fruits, it must be from a specified place and it must come with a bill.
The Sheikh has always been peaceful and against the violence. It is for his peaceful and counter-violence way in Nigeria that the Sheikh has attracted so many proponents. The reason that in less than 20 years the Shia population of Nigeria became multimillions is not but his behavioral virtue which is affected by the holy Imams.
Sometimes that a dispute occurs between the Christians and the Muslims, the Sheikh takes the Christians’ side when they are rightful, an issue caused, in addition to the Sunni Muslims, the Christians to convert to Shia Islam. In many cases the Sheikh has prevented much bloodshed. While last year he lost three of his sons in the Nigerian army’s attack, he said that it was not a big sacrifice compared to the sacrifice made by the Karbala martyrs.
Therefore, the Sheikh’s behavior was a significant factor attracting many of the people in Nigeria to Shi’ism, an issue drawing increasing concerns of the Wahhabi and Zionist groups about growing of the number of Shiite Muslims in Nigeria.