Tehran urges Nigeria to investigate Shia killings

December 17, 2015

TEHRAN – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has said that it is essential for Nigeria to form a fact finding committee to investigate the killing of Shias in the country.

It is expected that the Nigerian government take necessary actions to prevent a continuation of the military crackdown on Shias, Rouhani said in a phone conversation with Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari on Tuesday.

Rouhani said that terrorism poses major threat to many Muslim countries, including Nigeria, and it is necessary to foster unity among people.

Some seek to create rift among Muslims but Muslims should raise awareness to maintain unity.

Shias are protesting in six northern Nigerian cities against the military crackdown they allege has left hundreds of their members dead.

Many businesses have shut in Kaduna, one of the cities worst-affected by the demonstrations, BBC reported on Tuesday.

Amnesty International said in a statement on Tuesday evening that the shooting of members of Shia in Zaria “must be urgently investigated ... and anyone found responsible for unlawful killings must be brought to justice”.

“While the final death toll is unclear, there is no doubt of that there has been a substantial loss of life at the hands of the military,” said MK Ibrahim, director of Amnesty International, Nigeria.

On Saturday night, Nigerian military forces surrounded the house of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria, in the northern city of Zaria. Heavy fighting broke out afterwards between the government forces and members of the Islamic movement, which stretched into the early hours of Sunday.

The Nigerian Army alleges that members of the movement were involved in an attack on the convoy of the Chief of Nigeria’s Army Staff, Tukur Buratai. The movement has denied the allegations.

---Medical treatment---

Rouhani said Iran is ready to provide medical services to Nigeria to treat the injured.

During his conversation with Buhari, Rouhani inquired about the fate of Zakzaky. Buhari said that the Nigerian government is determined to investigate the elements behind the recent attacks in the country.

In a message on Wednesday the Iranian culture minister also called on counterparts from Islamic states not to remain silent on the “human tragedy” in Nigeria.

---Rafsanjani denounces raid on Zakzaky’s house ---

Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, who is chairman of Iran’s Expediency Council, also on Wednesday denounced the raid on the house of Zakzaky and the killing of a large number of Shias in the country.

The Iranian official said around 10 million Shias live in Nigeria without causing any trouble, but they have recently been subjected to acts of aggression under “false pretexts,” Press TV reported.

Grand Ayatollah Nasser Makarem Shirazi also on Wednesday called on the Muslim world to take action regarding the bloody crackdown on Shias in Nigeria.

The ayatollah called on the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to convene a meeting to press the Nigerian government to secure the immediate release of Zakzaky.

He also called on the international community to break its silence on the severe clampdown on the Nigerian Shias and said those behind the recent brutal assault must be identified and brought to justice.

Assembly of Experts chief Ayatollah Mohammad Yazdi on Wednesday called on human rights organizations and the Nigerian president to launch investigation into the Shia killings and help release Zakzaky.

Yazdi said the attack on Zakzaky’s house caused pain in the heart of Muslims, especially Shia Muslims.

Ali Akbar Velayati, a senior advisor to the Leader of the Islamic Revolution, issued a statement on Tuesday urging the Nigerian government to punish the perpetrators behind the “terrorist” acts.

He offered condolences to the families of the victims.

---‘Attack is intended to create division among Muslims’---

Iranian Majlis Speaker Ali Larijani said on Tuesday that the “terrorist” attack in Nigeria is intended to create division among Muslims in the country.

The violence has no result other than serving the Zionist regime of Israel, he said in a message to Nigerian Speaker of the House of Representatives Yakubu Dogara.

---IMN accuses Nigeria of killing hundreds of Shias---

The IMN alleges that the military killed hundreds of its members and destroyed a religious shrine and Zakzaky’s home during the raid.

A leading human rights activist, Chidi Odinkalu, has backed that figure and called on President Buhari to conduct an independent investigation into what happened.

“It is not tolerable. Nigerians have the right to live like citizens of any other nation,” he told the BBC.

“How can a professional military respond with guns to people protesting with stones?” Odinkalu added.

The cities of Kano, Katsina, Sokoto, Zamfara and Bauchi have also been hit by protests.

In Iran, a group gathered in front of the UN office in the north-eastern religious city of Mashhad to protest about the violence in Nigeria.

The military has not given casualty figures, but has denied the IMN’s claim that the wife of Zakzaky, Zeenat Ibrahim, was killed during the weekend clashes.

Maj Gen Oyebado, the army head of the Kaduna division, said on Monday that she was in the army’s custody.

He did not confirm or deny the death of the couple’s son, Sayyid Ibraheem Zakzaky.

According to Al-Jazeera, Chidi Odinkalu, of the Nigerian Human Rights Commission, called the attacks “a massacre”. He posted photos on social media showing a bulldozer tearing apart a Shia shrine, but doubts later emerged about whether the image was actually from Zaria. He also said that Zakzaky’s home was destroyed.

Odinkalu told the AP news agency that Zakzaky suffered four bullet wounds and one of his wives was killed in raids that began on Saturday and ended on Monday morning. He was quoting the family doctor