Guidance

Unpacking the Shiite Protests in Nigeria and the Risk of Radicalization

Jul 29, 2019 | 09:00 GMT
Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria were reported to have set this building on fire during clashes with police in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, on July 22, 2019.

Members of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria were reported to have set this building on fire during clashes with police in Abuja, Nigeria's capital, on July 22, 2019. Members of the Shiite group have been calling for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky.

(KOLA SULAIMON/AFP/Getty Images)

In recent weeks, the Nigerian capital of Abuja has been the site of several violent clashes between security forces and Shiite protesters, prompting authorities to ban demonstrations outside government buildings on July 18. Tensions then escalated on July 22 as security forces opened fire on allegedly armed followers of the Islamic Movement of Nigeria. At least 13 people died during the crackdown, including a journalist covering the story. So far, the protesters' demands have focused on calling for the release of their leader, Sheikh Ibraheem Zakzaky, as well as political and religious freedoms. But the more Nigeria's government responds with violence and alienation, the more it risks further radicalizing the organization's Islamist message and possibly encouraging militancy among its followers -- just as it did by executing Boko Haram's leader in 2009....

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