Acclaimed novelist Salman Rushdie is on a ventilator after being stabbed in the neck and abdomen as he prepared to give a talk at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York on Friday morning, according to his agent.
Rushdie was airlifted to hospital Friday morning and underwent surgery for several hours at a nearby trauma center, Rushdie’s agent, Andrew Wylie, told the New York Times.
“The news is not good,” Wylie told the newspaper. “Salman will probably lose an eye; the nerves in his arm were severed; and his liver was stabbed and damaged.
Police arrested Hadi Matar, 24, in connection with Friday’s attack. Matar, from New Jersey, had previously posted on social media in support of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and Shia extremism, the New York Post reported.
“People said, ‘He [Rushdie] has a pulse, he has a pulse, he has a pulse,” said an eyewitness to the attack and its aftermath. New York Times. Another witness told the Time that “there was only one attacker” and that “he was dressed in black. He wore a loose black garment. He ran towards him with lightning speed.
Rushdie has lived under the threat of assassination since Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini – then supreme leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran – issued a fatwa calling for the author’s death in 1989. His fourth novel, satanic verseswas published in 1988 and included what some considered an unflattering and blasphemous portrayal of the Islamic prophet Muhammad.
The UK and Iran ended diplomatic relations over the fatwa and only restored them in 1998 when then-Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said he “would not support interfere with the assassination operations against Rushdie”.
There is a bounty on Rushdie’s head of over $3 million donated by a religious foundation in Iran.
Police sources reportedly told the New York Post that a preliminary investigation revealed that Matar posted on social media in support of Iran and its Revolutionary Guards, as well as in support of Shia extremism.
However, New York State Police said they had “no indication of motive at this time” and believe Matar acted alone.
PEN America, a human rights organization advocating for free speech of which Rushdie was president, released a statement from its CEO, Suzanne Nossel.
“PEN America is shocked and horrified at news of a brutal and premeditated attack on our former President and staunch ally, Salman Rushdie, who was allegedly stabbed multiple times while speaking on stage at the Chautauqua Institute in the upstate New York. We can think of no comparable incident of a violent public attack on a literary writer on American soil,” Nossel wrote.
“A few hours before the attack on Friday morning, Salman had emailed me to help place Ukrainian writers who needed safe haven from the grave perils they faced. Salman Rushdie was targeted for his words for decades but never wavered or wavered. He devoted tireless energy to helping the vulnerable and threatened. If we do not know the origins or motives of this savage attack, all those around the world who encountered violent words or called for violence are guilty of legitimizing this assault on a writer while he was engaged in his vital work of connecting to readers. Our thoughts and passions now go out to our fearless Salman, him wishing for a full and speedy recovery. We fervently hope and believe that his vital voice cannot and will not be silenced,” she continued.
At a press conference on Friday afternoon, New York Governor Kathy Hochul assured reporters that Rushdie – whom she called “someone who was out there without fear, despite the threats that threatened him. ‘have followed his entire adult life’ – ‘was receiving the care he needs.’ got up and saved his life”.
The attack on Rushdie comes against the backdrop of increased aggression by the Iranian regime. Last year, a kidnapping plot against dissident Masih Alinjad, who now holds US citizenship and reports human rights abuses in Iran, was exposed by the Justice Department. On Wednesday, the DOJ revealed that it had uncovered a planned assassination attempt on former national security adviser John Bolton.
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