On the seventh day after the killing of peaceful protesters on Quds Day in Zaria, crew of Liberty Radio, Kaduna, condoled Sheikh Zakzaky over the incidence and used the opportunity to conduct an interview. Below is the transcribed version into English by Ibrahim Usman:
Liberty Radio: On behalf of the management of Liberty, we extend our condolence over the death of your sons and followers. Accept our condolence.
Zakzaky: Thank you, and may Allah reward you.
Liberty Radio: We would like to know what actually happened.
Zakzaky: in the first place, we are used to expressing our solidarity on annual basis with the Palestinians, whose land was usurped and was used to create a nation called Israel. Since 1980, late Imam Khomeini declared the last Friday of every month as Quds Day for the world to express solidarity with the people of Palestine. Since then, peaceful protests were being held around the world. I could remember we had even held a seminar here (in Nigeria) over the issue, where speakers were invited and delivered papers on the plight of Palestinians. When Imam Khomeini declared the day I was then in prison, that was in 1404 AH, we are now in 1435. We began observing the day in 1984, the one we just observed this was the 32nd in the series, non-stop. We used to converge in Zaria and observed the day, but at one point in time we recorded large gathering which observers said was about 2 million. From then we decided that, to decentralize the event so that people observe the day in their respective cities. Presently, Quds Day is observed in about 22 cities in Nigeria, which include Kano, Kaduna, Katsina, Sokoto, Lagos, Ilorin, Port Harcourt, Maiduguri and many other major cities. Like the previous years, the day was observed peacefully in these cities. It has always been on the last Friday of every month of Ramadan, people decided when to stage the procession, either before or after Friday prayer.
As has been the tradition, this year’s Muzahara (procession) started from Sabon Gari Juma’at mosque and was terminated at Kofar Doka.
Liberty Radio: You mean, the procession was over before the incidence happened?
Zakzaky: Yes, the procession was indeed over, the closing prayer was even said and people were dispersing. It was the people passing through Sabon Garia area, on their way from the procession that were shot by the soldiers.
Liberty Radio: There is a report that, a military officer wanted to pass through the procession but was blocked and refused entry. It is said, this brought about the incident, how true is this?
Zakzaky: No, it is not true. We have reports that he came especially from Abuja with the intent of committing murder. He had wanted to meet the procession going on, but because they were moving slowly in a convoy with armoured tanks, they met the procession was already terminated. The spent 7 hours moving in a convoy from Abuja to Zaria. But because they had hidden agenda, they just opened fire without notice. The opened fire at different spots; some at Leventis roundabout up to PZ area, while others in plain clothes hid in a sugarcane farm beneath Kubanni bridge opened fire to those coming back from the procession. Some of them also shot at people coming back from top of nearby storey buildings.
Liberty Radio: So, there was nothing like a military officer who wanted to pass through…
Zakzaky: No, no, there was nothing like that. They just opened fire. After the killings and arrest, the shooting affected about hundred people. They shot at about 70 people, out of which 19 died (of gunshots).
Liberty Radio: You mean, they died instantly?
Zakzaky: some died afterwards, such as my son who was university student from Beirut. When he was shot, he was brought home and it was advised that he be taken to the hospital. But because they had blocked the road, he bled to death. Out of the 33 people they killed, 19 of them were shot to death with bullets, the rest they took alive to their barrack and tortured them to death. They did the same thing to two of my children. They took them alive, when I spoke to the state police commissioner demanding their release, he told me that one Lt. Col. Okhu of the Bassawa Barrack said he would not release them directly to us, but rather we should collect them at the ABU Teaching Hospital, Shika. I sent an ambulance to get them, because I heard one of them had been shot on the leg. The DPO escorted the ambulance, but the soldiers arrested the ambulance. I asked the DPO to go to the hospital, where found them dead. They were actually killed, because they were taken alive.
I learnt that, before they were put on the military vehicle to the hospital, the Commanding Officer of the Basawa Barrack Col Okuh, shot Ahmad the one reading Chemical Engineering at Xian Yen University, China, five times in the back. As they threw him inside the vehicle, they also broke his arms and legs. And he died. The shot the other one on the thigh, as they were about to enter the hospital they realized he was still breathing. They stabbed him with a knife that pierced through his brain, and he also died. The handed over the two dead bodies of my son, with the third having a gun shot on his leg. There was also another boy among them, not my son, he was also shot. At the hospital, were also handed over 12 dead bodies, with bruises of torture on their bodies, some of them were electrocuted. On the whole, they have killed 33 people, out of which was an Igbo Christian called, Mr. Julius Anyawu. He had a carpentry workshop close to the place where they incident happened. He went to them, asking them why they were shooting at peaceful protesters, they also shot him, and he died instantly. His female worker came called Chibuozo went to take him away, and they shot her too. She survived. Out of the 70 people that survived the gun shot, many were discharged after treatment. There are about 9 people whose cases were severe, because the bullets have severely damaged their bones, and they are receiving special treatment. There is one among them whose case is more severe, as he was shot in the head. He is still in coma.
Liberty Radio: People were made to believe that, it was a fight between the Shi’ites and the soldiers during Quds Day procession. We would like to know, is Quds Day exclusively observed by the Shi’ites?
Zakzaky: There is level of ignorance on the part of people regarding this. Quds Day is being observed all over the world, including in major cities of the world such as London, Paris, New York, Washington, Beijing, etc. You only need to browse on the internet and television so see that in London and New York participants of Quds Day procession included moderate Jews and their Rabbis, Christians and leaders of countries. Present leader of Venezuela, Moduro and his predecessor, Hugo Chavez, all participated. This issue should therefore not be confined to religion. It is a humanitarian issue that affects all people of conscience. Whoever does not support what is happening in Palestine, as a man of conscience and with human feelings, affects him. But here people are trying to make it exclusive reserve of Shi’a. Come to think of it, if one views it as a Shi’a procession, the Soldiers who shot at them, are they Sunni? If one tries to relates it to religion, reason with this: The Christian gentleman Julius Anyanwu they killed while trying to appeal to their conscience, and Chibuzo whom they also shot at, are they also Shi’ites? Where does the issue of Shi’a comes in?
Liberty Radio: How true is it also, is another story we heard that, the Governor of Kaduna state wanted to pass through the procession and he was refused passage?
Zakzaky: it is not true, you can ask him this question. As far as I know, Governor of Kaduna state was never there during the procession.
Liberty Radio: With your large followership and charisma, and with the painful killing of your sons, people thought there would never be peace in Kaduna. But to our surprise, you were reported to have forgiven. How true is the statement?
Zakzaky: I didn’t say I have forgiven. I know who did this to me, it is not the people that did this to me, and so I cannot fight them. I know that those in author or at the helm of affairs ordered the killing, but the killing of my sons surprised me. It is me they dislike and target, if I did wrong to them, what have my children done to them? They should have killed me and leave my children alone. If you dislike someone, do you then go and kill his children? Children cannot be held accountable to the sins of their parents. Most of the people killed are children below the age of 20 years, including a four-year-old boy and a nine-year-old girl. None of them is up to 30 years, except that Christian gentleman, Julius Anyawu, who was 68-year-old.
Liberty Radio: Now that you have not forgiven, what steps are you going to take to seek redress?
Zakzaky: What is before us now is to bury our dead and receive condolence, and this is what we are presently doing. As you can see, we have just observed the seventh day prayer, this is what is before us now.
Liberty Radio: Thank you for giving us your time at this critical period.
Zakzaky: I thank you also.