One Muslimah was martyred and several Muslims injured in Zaria, the capital of Kaduna province in northern Nigeria, on January 22, when police opened fire at the conclusion of an Al-Quds Day march which was attended by an estimated one million people. Police later surrounded and fired on the home of Ma’allim Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky, whose Ikhwan Al-Muslimeen movement had organized the march. Two persons were injured in police firing. The incident was scantily reported in the world media, evidently for fear that it would spoil the impression of Nigeria’s smooth ‘transition to democracy.’
The Zaria Al-Quds march, an annual event to mark the occasion of Yaum Al-Quds declared by Imam Khomeini in 1980, was the largest in the world this year. While the BBC World Service reported a figure of over half a million people, the organizers estimated that about one million people turned out.
The demonstrators, who included many women and children as is usual in Nigeria, marched from two points in the city - the main City Square and Sabron Gari. They converged outside the Central Mosque in Tudan Wada, from which they were dispersing at about 12.30 pm for Salat al-Juma’ when the firing incident took place.
Witnesses reported that seven armed police officers who had been monitoring the march from a truck fired into the crowd as they drove away. The martyred Muslimah was Haleema Umar Yaawuri, according to information received by the Islamic Human Rights Commission (IHRC) in London, which monitors Nigerian affairs in detail. She was in her twenties and the mother of two small children.
Later in the day, police surrounded Ibrahim Al-Zakzaky’s home in the city and opened fired, wounding two friends of the family. Hundreds of local people rushed to the scene fearing that Zakzaky was to be assassinated or re-arrested, and the police withdrew.
The Quds Day incidents were the culmination of a month of tension in the region since Zakzaky and other senior members of the movement were released from jail on December 18. All four men and their families, and other movement activists, have been subjected to restrictions and harassment. Zakzaky, the de facto leader of Nigeria’s Islamic movement, has been prevented by police from leading Zaria’s main Friday prayers at the university campus, and worshippers coming to hear his khutbah have either been prevented from reaching the site or have been harassed.
Meanwhile, an estimated 60 members of the movement still remain in jail, according to the IHRC, with no sign as to when they will be released. This is despite the fact that all charges against them have been dropped. Conditions in the jails are appalling, and a number of prisoners have died in a TB epidemic.
The west hailed last month’s state elections in Nigeria as a resounding success and a key step on the ‘transition to democracy’. Presidential elections are due in March and the military ruler, general Abdulsalam Abubakar, is expected to step down in May. But the realities of oppression for Nigeria’s Islamic movement remain constant.
Muslimedia: Feb.1-15, 1999