By Adamu Adamu
1 August 2014
When soldiers opened fire on Muslims demonstrating on International Quds Day in Zaria on Friday, July 25, 2014, Julius Anyawu, a 68-year-old Igbo man, and his companion, Chibozor Levechi, were standing nearby.
Instead of running away, they protested, asking why. They never found out--and Anyawu never will. He was shot dead--and Levechi is right now lying critically ill at Wusasa Hospital in Zaria.
International Quds Day, which is fixed for the last Friday of Ramadan, was proclaimed by Imam Khomeini [qss] in 1979 as a day for demonstrating solidarity with the dispossessed, especially the Palestinians whose land has been usurped by Zionists with the help of Western powers. According to the Imam [qss]: "Quds Day is a universal day, not a day exclusively for Quds alone: it is a day for oppressed peoples to rise and stand up against [global] arrogance."
Since 1979, year in, year out, the event has been celebrated in several cities across the world. This year, International Quds Day celebrations took place in 81 countries. In Iran, where the most massive rallies took place, millions demonstrated in more than 770 cities and towns. Across the United States, demonstrations took place in more than 20 cities, including New York, Washington, Los Angeles and Phoenix. In New York's Times Square, Sunni and Shia Muslims joined militant leftists and anti-Zionist Jews to condemn Israel and call for the liberation of Gaza.
As the sun rises in the Far East, Japanese demonstrators were marching on the Israeli embassy in Tokyo. Along with the sun, demonstrations spread eastwards through Thailand, Kyrgyzstan, Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Pakistan and India, in all of which demonstrators burned the Israeli flag and condemned the United States for the bloodshed in Gaza. And across several Middle Eastern countries, including parts of Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Iraq, Syria, Jordan, Lebanon, Yemen, Algeria and Sudan, demonstrators were able to voice their anger against Israel.
In Europe, demonstrations took place in Germany, France, Belgium and Macedonia. And in Canada, Muslims, Christians, Jews and Hindus held pro-Palestinian rallies in Edmonton, Toronto, Halifax, Vancouver, St. John and Calgary. In central London, tens of thousands of British demonstrators, including several political figures such as Diane Abbot, Baroness Jenny Tonge, Andrew Murray and the irrepressible George Galloway, joined the rally on International Quds Day demanding justice against the "killers of Gaza children". The rally was joined by the Orthodox Jews of the Neturei Karta.
And throughout the world, nowhere did the demonstration end in violence except in Nigeria; and, even here, only in Zaria. Demonstration in other cities in Nigeria began and ended peacefully, as they have been doing for the past 22 years in which the Zaria-based Islamic movement, under the leadership of Mallam Ibrahim al-Zakzaky, had organised them.
Indeed, there has been no year in which the celebration of International Quds Day would become of such mournful, sorrowful poignancy as the current one. In a most heart-rending show of unprecedented barbarity, Israel unleashed a bombing spree that resulted in an unsightly carnage that was enough to have disgraced the United States and exposed the so-called Israeli Defence Force as perhaps the world's most immoral army.
So unacceptably unpleasant was the assault that even Zbigniew Brzezinski, President Jimmy Carter's national security adviser and the inventor of the 'Arc of Crisis', himself Jewish and friend of Israel, and former US Secretary of State Madeline Albright, with her 300,000 dead Iraqi children, herself a Jewess and friend of Israel, found it distasteful enough to condemn Israel publicly.
Why should the demonstration this year be different? If benefit is a good guide to motive, the Federal Government stands to gain nothing from these murders and from the suppression of International Quds Day celebrations; the Nigerian Army stands to gain nothing from them; and even the commander who ordered this assault is not likely to gain anything from it. The only entity that is alarmed by Quds Day and stands to benefit from its cessation is Israel; and Israelis are advisers to the Nigerian Army. In the circumstance, it will not be unreasonable to assume that they probably gave the order. Only a full, open and independent inquiry will be able to determine whether we have sold our dignity and independence this low--that officers of our army can be subcontractors used to kill their fellow citizens in cold blood on behalf of a foreign power that shouldn't have been here in the first place.
What we are up against is a culture of impunity and a cynical attempt to exploit it, a culture in which soldiers oppress torture and kill people without consequences. If soldiers cannot do their job without violating the human rights of the people, they do not deserve the uniform on their backs. The nation must be man enough to hold them criminally responsible for the use of excessive, lethal violence and for the abuse of detainees in their custody; and force them to appreciate their responsibilities and obligations toward fellow human beings.
Those who are able must rise up in defence of those whose rights are eroded in the name of national security, those imprisoned, tortured or killed for exercising their right to freedom of association and expression. In the end, the government must take appropriate measures to see that soldiers suspected of criminal responsibility are prosecuted, tried and duly punished; provide their victims with effective remedies, including reparation for losses and injuries suffered; and then take all necessary steps to prevent a recurrence.
But it is not as if soldiers don't know how to do it. On May 14, 2014, the newly established 7 Division of the Nigerian Army announced it would institute a military board of inquiry to determine the remote and immediate causes of the mutiny by soldiers in Maimalari Cantonment, Maiduguri, who fired shots as the General Officer Commanding the division addressed them. On July 30, 2014, Maj.-Gen Emmanuel Abejirin, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) 2nd Division Nigerian Army, Ibadan, inaugurated a general court martial to try erring personnel within the division who had been accused of stealing, forgery, defilement, rape and murder, disciplinary cases which, by the provisions of military law, could not be tried summarily. Now, the nation--and the Shiites--waits to see what would be done to the soldiers who fired the shots that killed more than 30 peaceful demonstrators, and the commander who reportedly personally killed Mallam Zakzaky's children.
In all this, whose biddings were the soldiers doing? We all know that in all operations, soldiers must understand and adhere to their rules of engagement. First, they have to be called in to quell civil unrest, only when the police confirm in writing that they have indeed failed. And only the president can authorise the use of the military, whenever and wherever it is deployed, and no matter how small the unit.
And only after the approval of the president can troops move in--and they must do so with a representative of civil authority the police, a photographer and a diarist to record every aspect of the proceedings. In addition, the military is under obligation to provide medical facilities to attend to the injured. And even at this stage, they must issue warnings and explore all avenues of solving the crisis without resort to arms. But if, finally, they are forced to have to use arms, then they must not shoot to kill; that is, there will be no targeting of the head or any of the body's vital organs.
And after all this, there must be a board of inquiry that will seek to establish what exactly caused the crisis; whether the president has authorised the use of the military force; whether soldiers have obeyed orders given to them, and acted in accordance with their rules of engagement; whether they have accounted for everything given to them; and whether anyone is guilty of criminal negligence?
The answers will determine whether there will be a summary trial or a court martial.
But all this theoretical background would become an issue only if there was a threat to order; but, in the circumstance of this demonstration, there was none, except perhaps in the afore-discredited declaration of the Director of Defence Information, Major-General Chris Olukolade, who said the Shiites opened fire on the soldiers, a statement that should be given no more credence than the earlier claim by the military to have rescued the girls of Chibok.
Like these girls have been forgotten, they are hoping that this also will be. But it is not so much forgetfulness as it is fear. A climate of fear and silence has seized the leadership of the Muslims such that not so much as a whimper could be uttered by, or heard from, the Nigerian Supreme Council of Islamic Affairs or the Jama'atu Nasril Islam, even though it is Muslims who are unjustly gunned down in broad daylight and in cold blood.
And whatever happens--whether these people speak up or keep mute--a full inquiry must be instituted into the circumstances that led to this tragedy. Just because they have frightened everyone into silence by creating Boko Haram doesn't mean that they can just kill Muslims--or anyone for that matter--and think they can escape the consequences of their actions. No, this must be the last time that anyone can do this in this country. The end of impunity must come--and it has.
Condolences to Mallam Ibrahim al-Zakzaky and members of the Islamic movement; and, especially, to Mallama Zeenat, the brave mother who lost three children all at the same time, all on the same day, in such tragic circumstances--and in cold blood. Where are the words to console this woman, with a heart so full of the pain and anguish only a mother could feel, lightened only by such expectations as only a believer could nurse. Her only consolation lies in the fact that her children fell--ever mightily so wronged--in the great battle between Islam and Zionism--and in full obedience to the directive of their Imam [qss]. May their souls, along with all the others, rest in perfect peace.