Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky is the leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria. Though Zakzaky has always been a peaceful leader, he has been constantly arrested and on baseless charges.
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Narration: December 12, 2015; Nigerian soldiers raid the home of a Shia cleric in Zaria. The attack quickly turns into carnage as soldiers opened fire on civilians.
SOUNDBITE [English] Seyyed Abdollah Hosseini, Political Expert: “We had a telephonic conversation with Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky. He was in his residence. As I was speaking to him, I could hear the sound of some shootings. He was emphasizing as we are talking now they are under the siege and he was saying before our conversations the siege has started. He said the Husayniah which was established by him, was completely destroyed by bombs”
Narration:Hundreds are killed. The leader is tortured and then arrested.A few day later on December 16, Colonel Sani Usman, the Nigerian Army Spokesman, tells THE GURDIAN that there has been: “loss of lives as a result of the Shia group members blocking roads and not allowing other passersby to go about their lawful businesses and activities”.
SOUNDBITE [English] Voice of Masoud Shajareh, Chairman of Islamic Human Rights Commission: “Now it's estimated as least 1,000 dead. All sort of false propaganda unleashed by the government is exposed because we have not heard of a single even injury on army's side and that shows in the movement all were unarmed. They were shot at and the casualties and the number of dead and the destruction is a testimony to the fact that innocent people were subjected to these barbaric shooting.”
Narration: The cleric, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky and his wife go missing for days. In late December, Nigerian police admit that they have Sheikh in custody. Inspired by the Islamic Revolution of Iran in 1979, Sheikh Zakzaky founded Nigeria’s Islamic Movement in the same year.
SOUNDBITE [English] Muhammadu Mustafa Gwadabe, Ahmadu Bello University: “This movement was started about 1979 with the Iranian Revolution. Nigerian society witnessed a lot of influence from that movement in Iran.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria: “Revolution means change of mind, change of attitude. People have one sort of ideas and they behave in one way and they change those ideas and behave in a different way. In other words, you change the mind of the man not that you take a gun and force him. That’s not the revolution. Revolution is not by force. It’s a voluntarily change.”
Narration: Since then, he has continued to be persecuted for an endless litany of baseless accusation. What’s obvious is that he is uncompromising advocate of universal human rights. His unwavering support of the Palestinians is a case in point.
SOUNDBITE [English] Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria: “Muslims in Nigeria are integral part of the Muslims in other parts of the world. So we in this part of the world are not different from the rest. It also shows that we do things according to wisdom and knowledge.”
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Narration: In July 2014, 34 members of the Islamic Movement were killed by Nigerian forces while celebrating Quds Day in Zaria, among them, three of Zakzaky’s sons. The Day is an annual event held on the last Friday of Ramadan to express support for the Palestinians in the occupied territories.
Perhaps, the main reason Sheikh Zakzaky and his movement have been under attack - especially in recent years - is his opposition to Nigeria’s alliances with Saudi Arabia; for Zakzaky, the Kingdom should be held accountable for many problems in the region.
In September 2015, a stampede in Mecca killed hundreds during the annual pilgrimage of Hajj. While the Saudis tried to put the blame on the pilgrims for the incident, Zakzaky retorted: “For the government of Saudi Arabia to blame pilgrims for killing themselves is ridiculous and a form of human degradation, which is also criminal. They are saying this in order to cover up the real cause of the tragedy.” (Nigeria’s The Daily Trust)
Zakzaky blames the Saudis not only for the human disaster in Mecca, but also for many other human cases of misery throughout the Middle East.
“The Saudi authorities cannot fool the world or exonerate itself from the heinous crime and monumental tragedy, as the world knows who is killing their brethren in Yemen, Bahrain, Iraq and Syria.” (Nigeria’s The Daily Trust)
Zakzaky’s arrest comes as Nigeria is in the process of deepening its diplomatic ties to Saudi Arabia, while the country might join Saudi Arabia in its widely publicized “anti-terrorism” alliance. Many critics have met the announcement of the Saudi-led anti-terrorism alliance with skepticism, suggesting it’s merely another front for spreading Wahhabism, an extremist ideology with its roots in Saudi Arabia that has inspired terrorist groups in the Middle East and North Africa, including Nigeria; a country home to one of the most brutal denominations of Wahhabi-terrorism, namely Boko Haram.
This home grown African radical action has claim to its name more death than other blood terrorist group like Daesh and Al Qaeda. To oppose this terrorist group, Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky stands tallest with his fervent advocacy for religious freedom.
SOUNDBITE [English] Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria: “We do not say that everyone should agree with us. We have our own ideas. Not everybody agrees with our ideas and we acknowledge that and we think what we should do is to exchange views. That’s not about saying I should come and join you or you should come and join me. You have yours and I have mine. But we have areas we agree upon, let us meet there.”
Narration: The leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria has been highly critical of political corruption, Boko Haram and the relationship it has with the Nigerian army.
SOUNDBITE [English] Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria: “We have status quo. And we are not happy with it. We have challenged it. We say it is bad”
Narration:But for all his statements and condemnations, never has he strayed from his commitment to peace and interfaith harmony. Zakzaky’s stand for peace, however, has been rewarded in blood.
SOUNDBITE [English] Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky, Leader of Islamic Movement in Nigeria: “There is no way that they can do anything and then expect us to say nothing. Never, and they make a grievous mistake. They think this is individual, they don't understand that it is a sort of belief that has exponents which run through generation.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Protester to Death of Sheikh Ibrahim Zakzaky:“This rally is to reiterate our solidarity to our Sheik that let the government know before they reach Sheikh they have to finish with us first. And everyone here in the rally is ready to sacrifice his life for the sake of Sheikh.”
SOUNDBITE [English] Protesters: “Nigeria is a terrorist state.5, 6, 7, 8, Nigeria is a terrorist state. Stop the killing, stop the hate, Nigeria is a terrorist state.”
Narration: A fire has been lit in Africa and few seem interested in extinguishing it. As for Washington and other Western capitals, their silence speaks volumes of their commitment to the war on terror, while the news blackout on this issue still begs for an answer.
SOUNDBITE [English] Protesters: “Sheikh Zakzaky, Sheikh Zakzaky ...”