The Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) is staging a protest and vigil for Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky in London, where President Muhammadu Buhari is attending an anti-corruption summit.
The aim of the protest is to call attention to the Zaria massacre, in which at least 350 Shiite Muslims were killed by the Nigerian military, and the abuse and unlawful detention of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN).
The massacre, which took place between December 12 and 14, 2016, began when IMN supporters blocked a road in Zaria, Kaduna State in order to prevent a military convoy from passing through. The military claimed that IMN supporters had attempted to assassinate the Chief of Army Staff, an allegation that the IMN has denied.
Following this incident, soldiers surrounded other locations where IMN supporters were gathered, including the compound of Sheikh Zakzaky, and began to fire indiscriminately upon them. Sheikh Zakzaky was then detained and beaten by soldiers. Reports later revealed that the Sheikh had to have one of his eyes medically removed due to damages inflicted by his captors.
Witnesses who spoke to Amnesty International stated that children were among the hundreds killed by the military. One schoolgirl, Nusaiba Abdullahi, was shot in her head, and a ten-year-old boy was shot in the leg as he attempted to flee the scene.
The military attempted to cover up the massacre by sealing off Sheikh Zakzaky’s compound and other areas where the incident occurred and by secretly burying the victims’ bodies.
Corpses were taken from the sites and secretly transported to mortuaries and eventually mass graves. According to a Kaduna State government official, 347 bodies of IMN members were recovered from a local hospital mortuary and taken to a field near Mando where they were discreetly buried. The IMN believes that hundreds of other members have been killed and buried, bringing the potential death toll to nearly 1000.
President Buhari and top military leaders have not taken meaningful legal action connected to the Zaria massacre to date, which has sparked outrage among the Shiite Muslim community. The Kaduna State government established a Judicial Commission of Inquiry to investigate the incident, but thus far, no concrete steps have been taken to hold the perpetrators of the massacre accountable.
IHRC is hoping that its protest will pressure the Buhari administration and Nigerian military to thoroughly investigate the matter and bring justice to the families of the victims.