the Execution of Safiya Hussain,
Over the last several years, there has been an upsurge of Islamic fundamentalist and other reactionary religious mobilizations in Nigeria. The seething discontent of the impoverished masses of the largest country in Africa is being diverted into religious and ethnic strife, provoking riots that have left hundreds dead since last September. In the midst of the communal bloodletting encouraged by the competing cliques of military and “civilian” strongmen, in mid-October a 35-year-old woman and nursing mother, Safiya Hussain, was sentenced by an Islamic court in the state of Sokoto to death by stoning for the supposed “crime” of adultery. The only proof against Safiya is that she is unmarried and pregnant. “As for a woman who doesn’t have a husband, but found to be pregnant, this shows she must have committed adultery,” said state governor, Alhaji Bafarawa, who declared her death sentence “irreversible.”
Safiya Hussain (Photo: New York Times Magazine)
The death penalty exposes the fraudulent “democratic” pretenses of the most “advanced” capitalist countries. In the United States, the state murder machine threatens to execute former Black Panther and renowned radical journalist Mumia Abu-Jamal, one of more than 3,000 prisoners on death row, the overwhelming majority black and Hispanic. The racist death penalty in the U.S. is legal lynching, and is in fact a product of slavery and Jim Crow segregation. In Nigeria the court which decreed the death of Safiya Hussain did so on the basis of the Sharia, the medieval Islamic legal code. At the same time, Nigeria’s bloody military rulers have murdered hundreds who have protested the depredations of the giant U.S. oil companies Texaco, Chevron and others in the last decade, as well as slaughtering thousands in the Biafra rebellion of the 1960s. Whether wearing military epaulets or civilian dress, the post-independence capitalist governments continue to bloodily suppress minorities, workers, women and any challenge to their rule under the old colonial laws.
Various “human rights” groups have made mild protests over the horrendous sentence against Safiya. But their priorities are dictated by the interests of imperialism. When the U.S. decides to attack Yugoslavia, Afghanistan or Iraq, only then will these outfits raise a hue and cry – in order to justify even more massacres by the U.S. and NATO. Trotskyists look instead to the working class, the social force that can sweep away the whole oppressive apparatus of capitalist justice, and to smash the death penalty. The Nigerian workers movement has the power. On January 16 and 17, tens of thousands of workers streamed into the streets of cities throughout the country to protest the government’s anti-working-class price rises and privatization policies. Hundreds were arrested, including numerous labor leaders and leftists such as supporters of the Democratic Socialist Movement. We demand the immediate release and dropping of all charges against those arrested in the general strike!
But what the Nigerian working people lack is a revolutionary workers party, a Trotskyist party that can lead the struggle for socialist revolution. From South Africa, where Nelson Mandela and his successor Mbeki are now running a neo-apartheid regime on behalf of the racist mining bosses, to Nigeria where a succession of military rulers have suppressed the impoverished masses in the interests of the oil companies, black bourgeois rulers are only puppets of the racist imperialists. Trotskyists declare that “adultery” is not a crime. We defend women’s right to consensual sexual relations, to free abortion on demand, to education, full participation in social labor with equal pay for equal work, at the same time as we defend homosexuals against discrimination and attack. Reactionary Islamic family codes in Africa and murderous attacks on abortion providers by Christian fundamentalists in the U.S. will only be abolished through international socialist revolution, led by a reforged Fourth International.
The court hearing of Safiya Hussain’s appeal against the death penalty is scheduled for March 18. We call on workers, students, women and all defenders of democratic rights to protest against the outrageous injustice that is being perpetrated and demand that she be freed now!
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