Iranian media shed light on “Islamic Movement” in Nigeria

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The Iranian news agency Tasnim on Thursday shed light on the role Iran and its support for Shiite Islamic groups could play in Nigeria. The website published an interview Ibrahim Zakzaky gave on television this week. Zakzaky is a leader of the “Islamic Movement” in Nigeria. He had been detained in Nigeria since 2015 but was reportedly released recently. Reuters describes him as the leader of a Shiite banner group. What is interesting here is that the Iranian Tasnim now wants to demonstrate its role, which seems to reveal the growing Iranian interest in spreading its influence in Africa.

What did the report say?

Zakzaky called the “Islamic Movement” the “Voice of the Islamic Revolution of Iran in Nigeria” and he “stressed that the movement is experiencing growth and prosperity”. He added: “After the victory of the Islamic Revolution in Iran, we realized that the ideas of this revolution are similar to those of us students at the university.”

Nigeria has a large Islamic community that makes up about half of the country, and Nigeria has been ravaged by extremists linked to Boko Haram for the past decade. The role of pro-Iranian or Shiite groups is more complex, however, as Boko Haram is allegedly rooted in Sunni extremists and linked to groups like IS, which tend to be sectarian and anti-Shiite.

In his discussion, Zakzaky says he once studied economics, attended Islamic gatherings and promoted the teachings of Islam. “When we were in college, we had Islamic activities. I was in prison for nine years, seven of them in the 1980s. You were bullied and bullied.” He claims his house was ransacked and children were killed by the authorities in the past. ”My wife was injured in the attack and the bullet has not yet left her body. She also has a bullet in my body and I have poor eyesight …. We are still under the supervision of the authorities and we are not allowed to talk about the attacks on us. ”

In this still image from an undated video dated January 15, 2018, Boko Haram leader Abubakar Shekau speaks to guards at an unknown location in Nigeria. (Photo credit: BOKO HARAM HANDOUT / SAHARA REPORTERS VIA REUTERS)

He says injuries sustained by security forces in a previous raid now require foreign treatment. “After our release from prison we asked for a passport.” In his conversation he described the “message of Imam Hussein” and observed the Shiite ceremonies of Ashura and Arbaeen. “Blood wins over the sword,” he called.

He also spoke about alleged attacks on Shiites in Nigeria. “What happened in Abuja was the attack by the country’s officials on the symbolic resurrection marches for Imam Hussein … the exact statistics will be released soon. Of course, some of those killed were not people present, but passers-by”. “The incident relates refer to a recent Shiite murder in the capital, Abuja. Shiites are frequently attacked by extremists in places like Pakistan, Afghanistan and elsewhere. Authorities in Nigeria allege that the police were not involved in any attacks in Abuja and that in fact the police took action against a banned Shiite Muslim group and arrested 57 people.

The sheikh said it was important for his followers to be on the “path of jihad”, although it was not clear what he meant by that. He compared his struggle to that of Nelson Mandela, the South African civil rights activist.

What is interesting here is that the Iranian media is showing a greater interest in Shiites in Nigeria and this may be part of a process to seek more recognition for groups inspired by the 1979 Iranian revolution. Groups like Hezbollah were already operating in West Africa.


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