Following the shooting of peaceful protesters on Quds Day commemoration in Zaria, Nigeria, Leader of the Islamic Movement in Nigeria Sheikh Ibraheem Yaqoub Zakzaky speaks to the press on the situation. The following is the transcribed version of the Press Conference:
WHAT ACTUALLY HAPPENED
“Gentlemen of the press, SalamualaikumwarahmatullahiTa’alawabarakatuhu.
The celebration of International Qud’s day is an event which has been observed in the world as a whole for the last 35 years. In Nigeria, and Zaria to be precise, yesterday’s event was the 32nd(in the series). For the last 32 years continuously every year we have been observing the Qud’s Day celebration. It is marked as a solidarity with the Palestinian people. It was set aside by Imam Khomaini in the 80’s, last Friday of Ramadan. And ever since that time people have been observing it all over the world, in major cities of the world including Washington, New York, London, and Paris. If one watched Press TV yesterday he world have seen the demonstration from all over the world.
In Nigeria we have been observing it in different cities, at least in about 22 cities, including principally Kaduna, Zaria, Kano, Jos, Bauchi, Katsina, Sokoto, Maiduguri, Yola, Lagos, Illorin and Port Harcourt among others. This year the event wentsmoothly as it has always been done. The procession started after Juma’at prayers from Central Mosque of Sabon Gari and ended in KofarDoka roundabout. As you can see from the pictures, the closing prayers were even said.
However all of a sudden there was sporadic shooting from the soldiers. They just appeared from nowhere and started shooting at people coming back from the procession. They continued shooting for sometime in the fall of the night. They hid in the sugarcane farms of Kubanni area, where there were no houses. They were sure that they were shooting at the protesters. As the shooting came after the procession, the target could be anyone passing by.
During the shooting they have killed and wounded a lot of people, including children and women. It was during that shooting that one of my sons, Mahmud, a student of Almustapha International University in Beirut, was shot. He came home for holiday at the beginning of this Ramadan. He was shot at his abdomen. He was brought here bleeding, they wanted to take him to the hospital, but the soldiers had blocked the way. He therefore bled to death on the road (to the hospital).
Among those arested were three of my children- Ahmad, Hameed and Ali. They were taken alive and in good condition. But later on, after we made contact with some people, specifically the police, they helped us to locate their whereabout. They were taken to a Military Hospital in Basawa. When we demanded that they should hand them over to us, they refused, but insisted on taking them to Shika Hospital (themselves); that we should collect them there. Later on we came to know that, they have already killed Ahmad and Hamid, while Ali was wounded on his leg. He has compound fracture. I don’t think it was bullet wound, they broke his leg. Up to now he could not be brought back because they have blocked the road.
Ahmad and Hameed also came for the holiday, they were both students. Ahmad was studying Chemical Engineering in Xhenyang University of technology. Hamid was studying Aeronautical Engineering in Xian another city in China. Ahmad was about to graduate next April in Chemical Engineering. Hamid came only last Saturday,his plane landed in Lagos on Friday and took local flight to Kaduna on Saturday. So it was six days after he came back. I believe these two were murdered in cold blood, because they were taken alive. We believed that they killed them here, because someone has identified Ahmad alive at the Military Hospital, but wounded on his leg. They shot him before they took him to the hospital.
The casualty figure is still going up, as I’m speaking to you now. Yesterday we had a total of 16 corpses, while the soldiers took 9 corpses with them to the Teaching Hospital apart from my two children, eleven all in all. This morning as they were passing by in front of Husainiyyah, they decided to shoot, and killed 3 more people and wounded many. We also learnt that they have taken with them two more corpses this morning. This means, today there is additional five corpses, total of 35 people. We presently have a total of 19 corpses with us, the remaining are with them.
We had wanted to have a mass funeral today, but because they have set a road block, and it was not possible to collect the rest of the corpses from the University Teaching Hospital, we cannot. The police, who have been helping us yesterday night, were ordered to steer clear. In fact the police commissioner phoned me and said it would be advisable if we leave the corpses until today, when the soldiers are not on ground.
Yesterday when we sent an ambulance and met the DPO of Sabon Gari to escort us to the hospital, the soldiers arrested the ambulance, the driver and one person with him. We don’t know what they did to them, they are in their custody. We don’t know whether one of the corpses they took today was that of one of the people in the ambulance. We wanted the police to escort us to the hospital, and went to the Area Commander and he told them he has been warned to take off his hand from this matter. Meaning that there can be no police escort to the hospital for us.
This demonstration took place in various cities in Nigeria; they just decided to attack that of Zaria in particular. Even in Kaduna, police and soldiers attended and offered escort and protection, as they did last year.
We learnt that the soldiers that did the shooting yesterday came from Abuja. They were brought from Abuja specifically for this purpose. They just opened fire and killed people, arrested some and cold murdered others in cold blood.
I don’t know why some section of the media when reporting event decided to call it a clash. In a headline they said “Shiites, soldiers clash”. Let me disabuse your minds about this idea of “Shiites”. This has nothing to do with belief, it is to do with people. You don’t have to be a “Shiite” to show solidarity with the Palestinians; you don’t even have to be a Muslim. If you check the internet you will see some Jews who participated in this Qud’s procession in London and New York. Several Christians participated, including some Heads of state. Hugo Chaves had always participated in Qud’s day procession.
Expressing solidarity with the Palestinian people can never come at a better time than this; when today for 19 days consecutively Gaza has been under siege with shelling from the air with missiles by the Israelis. The death toll is more than 900 now, getting to one thousand. And there has been demonstration all over the world not, only yesterday, ever since they started the attack there had been demonstrations, particularly in European countries. I don’t know why they decided to attack that of Zaria in particular. Why Nigeria, and why Zaria? Even in the city of Quds, Jerusalem, there was demonstration yesterday, and no single person was killed. I don’t know why soldiers were brought to open fire on us. What clash then, when you have armless people shouting slogans on one side and some people on the other side with guns shooting at them? You call thisclash?
Of course we noticed that this people well prepared for this operation. They have large number of their people in civilian clothes, who also joined the demonstration. We noticed that at times they were uncontrollable, when they see soldiers they start shouting; that gave them away. They have been doing this to us for sometime in some demonstrations. If actually you are part of us, and you are told to do something you will obey; if you are told not to, you will not. But these people would never listen to anybody. One typical example, is soldiers in civilian dress; they changed the uniform once in the barrack and joined us. It was our people who chased them out. And even when they came to Husainiyyah this morning, it was their people who were shouting, but they killed innocent people. Perhaps if there was any clash, it was between themselves. As far as we know, it was soldiers opening fire on people passing by in a peaceful demonstration.
Up to now we cannot say everything is okay, because right now they have blocked the way to Shika Hospital, and we are not able to recover our injured and the corpses. I have not seen the corpses of my children, apart from that of Mahmud. We have not seen the rest. Similarly we have seen Ali, who has compound fracture. There is no way we could get there because of the blockage”.
Q: There is rumour going on that apart from your three sons killed, there are three of your daughters were also arrested. How true is this?
A: we are not aware of this, but there is a nine-year-old female and a four-year-old boy among those killed.
Q: Is there any legal action the Movement is likely to take over this issue?
A: We are presently preoccupied with retrieving our dead and the injured and bury them. Later on we will decide what to do. They are now circulating rumour that, we are going to stage a demonstration today. The demonstration took place yesterday; if only they will allow us we will conduct funeral prayer for the people they have killed.
Q: We will like Malam to tell us the ages of his children killed.
A: Ahmad was born in October 1990; Hameed was born in January 1992; and Mahmoud was born in 1995.
Q: The talk gong round town is that, the problem started when a high rank military officer wanted to pass through and he was blocked. How true is this?
A: This is part of the rumour they are spreading. One rumour I also heard was that the governor asked us not to conduct the procession, and we disobeyed. Reason with this, Kaduna and Zaria are all part of the state, the processing was held in Kaduna the capital city, why then did they shoot people in Zaria? They always wanted to justify their atrocities. It is true that a certain military officer was refused exit, did that gave the license to shoot? For instance, we conducted the Maulud of Sayyedah Zahra in Zaria the same day the governor was given a traditional title, they pleaded that we should ensure smooth running of the two programmes simultaneously, as we shared the same passage. We decided to pave way for them to use the city, while we conducted our programme outside the city. They thanked us. As they were going out after their programmes, some of their (aggrieved) members started throwing stones at them; they then felt safe with us and decided to pass through our congregation of event safely. At one time also, the Vice President had passed safely through our congregation of event. This means what you heard was not right. It has not happened.
Q: This rally had been conducted peacefully over the years. What do you think made them to always pick on that of Zaria in particular as a target for offensive for whatever you do, when it had always been peaceful in other places?
Q: The one in Zaria was also peaceful. What we can say is that, they came and committed brutal murder; that is just it. The rally was peacefully concluded, and they came with full intention of committing murder, and murder they committed. They know better why they focused more on our activities here. In 209, they conducted similar episode, they laid siege in Kofar Doka nad opened fire. They also arrested one of my boys, not biological son, but he lived with me. His name is Abdur-Rahman Isa who hailed from Saki in Oyo state. His parents are still alive. They captured him alive in their vehicle, and later killed him. This was also the case with one Muhammad Isa from Jaji five years ago, whom they shot (in cold blood). Then this became their tradition. In 2000 after our release, after the Quds Day rally and people were dispersing, they suddenly emerged and shot dead a sister, A’isha from Yawuri. They are in the position to answer to the question, why the always come here to commit murder.
Q: A s the event was unfolding and to the present situation, was there any attempt to get in touch with some government officials, or the military spokesman?
A: Yes, we had contact with them through a link. From my understanding all of them, even their commandants and GOC are not aware of this military operation, and who gave the order for the operation. I have not spoken directly with the GOC, but from our link we realized that he was not in charge; the governor was not in the picture, nor was the police commissioner was aware of who gave the order. None of them was aware of what is going on. They even gave (contrary) orders that were not obeyed. We understand that, the order was from above; from Abuja came the order. It was that order from above the led to what happened. Yes, we had contact with them through a link.
Q: As tension is rising high now, what message odes Malam has for the Brothers and the people in general?
A: People should keep calm, what happened has clearly shown us that we turned into Gazzans. What is happening is happening to the people of Palestine is now happening to us. People of Palestine are killed at will and residences were targeted for destruction. There was an offensive which claimed lives of 24 people of the same family.In some cases, only one or two family members in a household were left alive, and you can find an entire family wiped out. They are still at it, and for 19 consecutive days, the people of Gaza were bombarded on daily basis, deliberately targeting people. From this you can see that, we here we are showing solidarity with the Palestinians and condemning Israeli atrocities, we are faced with the same fate as that of the people of Palestine. The government here on its part, has shown us that it is on its part expressing solidarity with Israel, and decided to do with us what Israel is doing with the people of Palestine. We have this message for the; on our part we staged a procession in support of people of Palestinian. We challenge them; let them also stage a procession in support of Israel. They have every right to do it, and we cannot oppose it. This is what they should have done, to show that Israel has supporters too. They should have done this, rather than using gun to kill those who oppose Israel.
Q: From the time this incident happened, was there any government intervention, particularly Kaduna state government?
A: Well, as I said earlier, there seemed to be a superior power somewhere behind what happened, somehow we have been in communication with the Governor and the Commissioner of Police who expressed his sympathy and said they would do all they could. Somehow these people who came from Abuja, I don’t know exactly who speaks from Abuja, have the upper hand. It is a direct order from Abuja.
Q: The sad incidents happening are targeting Islamic scholars and their children. What are you doing as leaders of the Muslim Ummah, to curtail the situation?
A: This issue affects the whole society, and the people are also duty bound to do something about it, not just to be onlookers. We are now witnessing killings in Nigeria, with Muslims as the prime targets. From what happened here yesterday, we can see who are behind the constant killings in Nigeria now, being it either in North-East, in Zamfara or Birnin Gwari forest and other forests, has clearly show who are behind it. It has always been incessant killings and bombings, but here they came in broad daylight in their vehicle and military uniform. We saw them, and they cannot deceive us into believing that it was the handiwork of “unknown gunmen”, as they always made people to believe. They even mingled with us in mufti during the event, we saw them. We know that, there is a Commanderin-Chief of the Armed Forces in the country, then he should be held responsible for these events happening. It is a wonder in what they called democratically elected government that things are happening, and no one is n control and who gives orders. Well, this is a challenge to the whole Ummah to see what it can do to salvage the society.
Thank you also for your time.
B y Ibrahim Usman