Alwaght- Like other countries, Shiite Muslims of Nigeria hold ceremonies annually to mark Ashura in which they mourn the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of Prophet Muhammad. But they have been facing restrictions over the past years imposed by the government, with some years witnessing big crimes by police and army forces against them. The army several times stormed in deadly raids peaceful Abuja Shiite gatherings protesting the crackdowns.
This year, too, security and army forces raided a ceremony marking Ashura, killing at least 3 and wounding 12 others, reports said. According to Islamic Movement of Nigeria, the attack targeted the commemoration ceremony in Sokoto, a city in the north, killing "Bilo Mohammed Alila, Omrana Omar Yaba, and Hassan Abu Bakr Sokoto."
At the same time, the federal government has seized passports of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the top Shiite cleric in the country who has just been released after years in prison for unproven charges, and his wife. These anti-Shiite measures are coming as recently a Nigerian court acquitted Sheikh Zakzaky of charges in a move that was regarded positive in the road to religious freedom. However, the violent actions of the police forces cast doubt on the seriousness of the government to walk end discrimination against the Shiites.
Anti-Shiite crackdown and hidden Saudi hands
Nigeria has a population of about 190 million, half of whom are Muslims. According to statistics, the majority of Nigerian Muslims are Sunnis, but despite all the restrictions, there are about 7 million Shiites under the leadership of Sheikh Zakzaky. He and his fellow Shiites have always spoken of their desire to establish an Islamic society in Nigeria, but have never resorted to violence.
Opposing the legitimate Shiite demands, Saudi Arabia has been the most important country that over the past years secretly spent much on repression of the Shiites. Propagating Wahhabism among the Muslims of Nigeria who are mainly concentrated in the north, the Saudis seek to build confrontation against the Shiite expansion. Wahhabi ideology is chosen as an instrument, promoted across Nigeria and other African states.
Riyadh provides financial support to the Nigerian government and army to suppress Shiites. Because they are strongly aware of the growing wave of Muslims' tendency to join Shiite Islam and intend to use various tools to weaken and kill Shiites. Undoubtedly, the Saudis played a key inciting role in the recent attack on mourners in Sokoto.
Nigeria government appeasing Saudis, other Wahhabism patrons
Although actions against Nigeria Shiites has a record of long years, this year the government was expected to avoid more crackdown as it sent positive signals by Sheikh Zakzaky acquittal. The cleric was released after nearly six years of unfair imprisonment on July 28 as a court cleared him of all charges. The release of Sheikh Zakzaky clearly demonstrates the peaceful nature of the Shiite movement in Nigeria. In fact, the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, founded by Sheikh in the early 1980s, has never resorted to illegitimate means such as taking up arms.
But why again did the Nigerian police attack the Shiite ceremony despite the court ruling proved that no violation of the law was made by the Shiites? Again we should point the fingers to Saudi Arabia, and the UAE. In recent years, Abu Dhabi and Riyadh have used their petrodollars against Shiites in Africa. Meanwhile, one of the main focuses of the Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman of Saudi Arabia and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed of the UAE has been Nigeria.
The two hardline Arab leaders have always backed tough measures of Abuja against the Shiites. After recent court ruling, Riyadh and Abu Dhabi put strains on the Nigerian government for the release. Therefore, the police raid should be read a as a response to the foreign pressure, signaling to the Saudi and Emirati leaders that despite release of the top cleric, the government maintains its crackdown and thus they should keep their financial aids flowing.
West turns a blind eye
Like all years in the past, the Western countries have chosen silence to the Nigerian government crimes against the Shiites, with their media boycotting the developments there. The manner in which Western countries and human rights organizations have confronted violence and massacres against Nigerian Shiites indicates that the liberal-democratic system in the West has double or even more standards in approaching the human rights. Western media outlets, for example, widely reflect on an attack on a synagogue and death of some people there and send sympathy messages but leave in news blackout, or at best simple and passing news report, the much more violent state terrorist against the Shiites and their peaceful religious ceremonies. Such double-standard dealing with the massacring of the Shiites in Nigeria added to the scandalous human record of the Western governments and rights organizations.