The case of Shia Muslim in Nigeria has been a measure of the nation states morality. In December 2015, a Shia Muslim religious center in Kunduna was attacked amidst religious processions. The Nigerian army killed over 400 Shia men, women, and children on that day alone. Two days later, a mass grave was discovered with the bodies of those killed. Local respondents report the burial was based on a court order by the state government, in attempts to thwart consequences of the militaries actions.
The attack in December was not the first case of anti-Shiism but an escalated direct act of violence against this community. In addition to systematic discrimination in the broader community, the leader of the mosque, Ibrahim Zakzaky faced the loss of his sons and his sister in previous clashes with armed forces.
In the attack in December, Zakzaky and his wife, Hajia Zainab Zakzaky were taken into custody without arrest warrants or viable charges. Despite increased international awareness and efforts of local activists, the Zakzaky’s are yet to be released.
Sources report Zakzaky has lost sight completely in his left eye and has a deteriorating vision in his right eye as a result of violence. Zainab Zakzaky still has a bullet lodged in her chest from the 2015 attack. The couple has been denied medical attention.
Backed by international humanitarian organizations, Femi Falana, the couple’s lawyer secured an order form the Abuja division of Federal High Courts to release the Zakzaky’s. The judge awarded Zakzaky 50 million NGN and temporary accommodations as reparations.
The state and the federal government have yet to follow through with the judge’s orders. The lack of compliance and accountability in the Nigerian judicial and executive branches of government are unsettling. In 2015, the Kunduna state governor, Nasir el-Rufai set a Judicial Commission of inquiry to probe the military’s actions against Shia Muslims in the state. The panel investigation concluded that Zakzaky must not be held in the trial as evidence against him is lacking. Not only did Rufai keep Zakzaky in detention, but the governor’s office also failed to prosecute military personnel who were active in the attack against Shia Muslims.
Falana notes that Zakzaky’s case is the first case since 1914 of a couple’s detention such as long duration.
The brutal lack of justice against Shia Muslims in Nigeria brings the credibility of the State into question. Injustice is apparent in the prosecution of Zakzaky’s case as evidence is lacking and there is inconsistency within the governments judicial and executive actions.
Nigeria is home to one of the fastest growing populations of Shia Muslims in the African region. Despite the government’s attempts to thwart such growth, more Nigerian nationals have turned towards the religion. Discrimination against Shia Muslims has only made it clear that the Nigerian state thrives on inequality and injustice. Further, anti-Shiism has reduced the peoples trust towards their government.
Shia Rights Watch (SRW) calls for increased international attention in the case of Nigerian Shia Muslims. SRW offers its deepest condolences for the lives lost as a result of the anti-Shia action and provides its full support to those demanding justice in their communities.