In April 2019, a team of medics and members of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) travelled to Nigeria to examine Shaykh Zakzaky and issued two reports declaring that he required urgent specialist treatment which could only be fully accessed outside Nigeria.
Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, a leader to many Shia Muslim followers in both Nigeria and abroad, has been illegally incarcerated by the Saudi-backed Nigerian government since December 2015 after a deadly raid of his home in Zaria by Nigerian forces, during which he was violently attacked and thousands of his followers were slaughtered.
The Nigerian administration has repeatedly demonstrated its utter contempt for human life, from the mass murder of thousands of members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria (IMN), to burning women and children alive, and to poisoning the spiritual leader with lead and cadmium. Despite such crimes, the Nigerian government is yet to be held accountable by the international community. Muhammadu Buhari, the president of Nigeria who meticulously authorised these crimes, has still not been prosecuted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) nor accepted any form of responsibility for the massacre.
The systematic genocide in Nigeria and our deafening silence
In April 2019, a team of medics and members of the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) travelled to Nigeria to examine Shaykh Zakzaky and issued two reports declaring that he required urgent specialist treatment which could only be fully accessed outside Nigeria. In the last few days, IHRC received further reports highlighting that the health of Zakzaky had further deteriorated since their visit.
The lead levels in his body have been described as “dangerously high”, and without immediate medical treatment, the world may witness another devastating death of a powerless individual. In a Press Release, IHRC revealed that “worrying” levels of Cadmium were found in the urine samples taken from Zakzaky. In an article published under the Caspian Journal of Internal Medicine, it has been professed that “Long-term exposure to cadmium through air, water, soil, and food leads to cancer and organ system toxicity such as skeletal, urinary, reproductive, cardiovascular, central and peripheral nervous, and respiratory systems.” IHRC have highlighted that the toxicity levels remain “off the scale” throughout Zakzaky’s body.
It should also be acknowledged that this is a direct result of the shrapnel from bullets that have been left in his body since 2015. During the massacre, Zakzaky lost all vision in his left eye and was repeatedly denied any medical attention to treat his wounds. The denial of medical attention is a clear breach of Article 10 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which states: “All persons deprived of their liberty shall be treated with humanity and with respect for the inherent dignity of the human person”, as well as Article 7 which affirms: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”
On 2nd December 2016, the Federal High Court in Abuja ruled that Shaykh Zakzaky and his wife Malama Zeenah Ibraheem were to be released within 45 days. The High Court described their detention as “illegal” and “unconstitutional”. The deadline for the court order expired on Monday 16 January 2017. Nigerian authorities have not complied with the high court order, and Mohammed Zakzaky, the son of Ibrahim Zakzaky, fears that the authorities are trying their utmost best to assassinate his father.
On Saturday 7th July 2019, Mohammed Zakzaky visited his parents and shortly after released a statement revealing that he does not think his father will live for much longer given his current condition. Towards the end of the statement, Mohammed Zakzaky expressed the following:
Although I do not wish to give in to despair, at this current point I feel that there is little left that I can do to try to save them, as every single attempt we have currently made has either been deliberately frustrated or simply ignored. Years ago, I stated that it appears that there is a deliberate attempt to assassinate my parents through deliberate negligence towards their health, back then I did not know the extent of it and I am telling you. The fact that they have managed to survive this long is a miracle.”
In a report submitted to the UN by the Islamic Human Rights Commission in May 2019, it was promulgated that the Zaria Massacre was an evident breach of Article 6, paragraph 1 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) which declares: “Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” The report also states that the torture faced by members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria is a breach of Article 7: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”
It should be duly noted that on 12th October 2016, just ten months after the Zaria massacre, approximately 300 more Shia Muslims were arbitrarily arrested and 100 wounded, simply for attending a peaceful procession to mark the martyrdom anniversary of the Prophet’s Grandson, Imam Hussain. The 10th day of Muharram, also known as Ashura, is a significant date in the Islamic calendar, and Muslims attend processions and peaceful gatherings to renew their allegiance to the Prophet and his Household.
The wrongful imprisonment of Sheikh Zakzaky and the oppressive government of Nigeria
Yet once again the Nigerian militia used this as an occasion to exterminate more followers of Sheikh Zakzaky. Although their tragedies aren’t “worthy” of broadcasting, courtesy of the mainstream medias Eurocentric standards of priority, their struggles remain of paramount to us. The lives of Sheikh Zakzaky’s six martyred sons remain of paramount to us. However, remaining as silent witnesses to such atrocities make us no better than those we condemn for often turning a blind eye to tragedies.
Given the recent reports, activists have once again taken to the streets in various cities around the world to protest the detention of Shaykh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife. Other campaigners are pleading with social media users to sign this petition which is directly addressed to the Government of Nigeria. The Islamic Human Rights Commission have also prepared a letter template for those who may intend on writing to the Nigerian Ambassador/Nigerian High Commission in their country. The template can be found here.
For those residing in London, a permanent sit-in protest has been organised by Ahlulbayt Islamic Mission outside the Nigerian High Commission. The organization has declared that until their demands are met, they will not end the protest. The demands are as follows:
- The Nigerian government immediately release Shaykh Zakzaky from illegal detention in line with the ruling of the Nigerian High Court. His continued detention without charge or trial is illegal.
- Shaykh Zakzaky is given access to urgent life-saving medical treatment immediately.
- The Nigerian government respect international laws and customs and act with responsibility for this highly important issue.
As believers, let us not forget the power of supplication and keep Shaykh Zakzaky, his wife, family, and followers in our prayers. All praise to the Most High.