What we know about the stabbing of writer Salman Rushdie in the United States

An attack after thirty years of death threats. British writer Salman Rushdie was stabbed in the neck and abdomen on Friday, August 12, when he was preparing to give a lecture in Chautauqua, a small town in northwestern New York state (United States).

Target of a fatwa since 1989 for his novel the satanic versesconsidered a blasphemy by the Iranian religious authorities, the author of Indian origin was immediately hospitalized. “The news is not good” about his state of health, he told the New York Times his Franceinfo agent takes stock of the circumstances of this attack.

A stabbing during a conference

British writer Salman Rushdie was about to give a literary lecture in Chautauqua, a small town near Lake Erie, which separates the United States from Canada, when he was attacked with knives. While the author was speaking at a cultural center in the city on Friday, August 12, “a suspect ran to the scene [de l’amphithéâtre] and attacked Salman Rushdie and the interviewer,” US police announced. Authorities say he was stabbed “at least once in the neck” et “at least once in the abdomen”.


Political science professor Carl LeVan, who was in the room when the attack took place, told AFP what he saw. He says that a man threw himself onto the stage where salman Rushdie sat down to violently stab him repeatedly. The “He was trying to kill Salman Rushdie”said this witness.

The famous writer is not the only one affected. The person who moderated the debate was “slight head injury”, explained the New York police during their press conference. The “he was treated for a facial injury” et “he’s been out of the hospital ever since”again according to New York authorities.

Salman Rushdie hospitalized in serious condition

After the attack, help came very quickly, according to the New York State Police. Immediately after his assault, Salman Rushdie was airlifted to the nearest hospital where he underwent emergency surgery, New York State Police Maj. Eugene Staniszewski told reporters.

Despite this quick intervention, “the news is not good”said Friday night at the New York Times the British writer’s agent, Andrew Wylie. “Salman will probably lose an eye; they cut the nerves in his arm and stabbed him in the liver”, he detailed. The 75-year-old man was placed on life support.

24-year-old man arrested

Immediately after the attack, spectators attending the event intervened to try to subdue the attacker, said Andrew Wylie, an agent for Salman Rushdie. The man who stabbed Salman Rushdie was immediately arrested and taken into custody.

The police reveal that his name is Hadi Matar. He is a 24 year old man who lives in the state of New Jersey. He had bought a ticket to attend the writers’ conference, according to the Parisian.

“We think of the aggressor” an agi “Single”said a police officer during a press conference, who specified that he was “It is still too early to pinpoint the motivations for this act.” A search of the suspect’s house is carried out and a bag and electronic devices were seized at the scene of the attack. Hadhi Matar sympathizes with the Iranian government that called for the death of Salman Rushdie, according to an article in the New York Post (in English).

L’Ayatollah Khomeini had been calling for his assassination since 1989.

The writer Salman Rushdie, born in India into a Muslim family, has been the subject since 1989 of a fatwa (religious decree) issued by the Iranian Ayatollah Rouhollah Khomeini (who died the same year), demanding his execution. A large reward was promised for the writer’s death. At the origin of the fury of the Iranian authorities, the publication in 1988 of Salman Rushdie’s novel the satanic verses, considered blasphemous by some Muslim fundamentalists. After the publication of the fatwa, Salman Rushdie was forced to live in hiding and under police protection.

Living discreetly in New York, Salman Rushdie had tried to return to a more or less normal life while defending, in his books, satire and irreverence. But the fatwa was never lifted and many of the translators of his book were injured by attacks or even killed, such as the Japanese Hitoshi Igarashi, who was stabbed several times in 1991.

In France and abroad, outraged politicians

Salman Rushdie’s attack has moved many heads of state. In France, the entire political class rose up after the attack on the writer. The French president showed his support for the author of the satanic verses : “Their fight is ours, universal”Emmanuel Macron launched on Twitter on Friday, claiming to be “Today, more than ever, by your side”.

Within the government, the Minister of Culture, Rima Abdul Malak, denounced on Twitter a “barbarian act” and paid tribute to “33 Years of Bravery”while Pap Ndiaye, Minister of National Education, praised a writer “symbol of freedom and erudition, that no Islamic obscurantism will stop”.

In the oppositions, the attack was also unanimously condemned. “It is a symbol of resistance against Islamist totalitarianism that has been attacked”, reacted the president of the National Association, Jordán Bardella. The interim president of the Republicans, Annie Genevard, estimated that “The fight of our democracies must be without weakness against an enemy that is playing in the long term to reduce our freedom”. On the left, the leader of the socialist deputies, Boris Vallaud, condemned an attack “serious and intolerable”, while the president of the environmental group in the Assembly, Julien Bayou, lambasted a “ignoble fatwa”. “The religious fanatics who issued a fatwa against him certainly bear the responsibility,” He vilified the deputy of La France insoumise Alexis Corbière.

“shocked”, “horrified”… In the rest of the world, declarations have multiplied in the last few hours. British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said “Dismayed that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed to death while exercising a right we must never stop defending”, referring to freedom of expression. “This act of violence is appalling.“said US President Joe Biden’s security adviser Jake Sullivan.

In France, the satirical newspaper charlie Hebdo, victim of an islamist attack that killed 12 people in his newsroom in 2015, he was outraged by this attack. “Nothing justifies a fatwa, a death sentence”hammered Riss, the chief editor.

The attacker praised by the conservative Iranian press

On the other hand, the tone is quite different in the conservative Iranian press, which largely celebrated this attack. Iran’s leading ultra-conservative daily, kayhancongratulated the aggressor on Saturday. “Bravo for this brave and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and vicious Salman Rushdie”writes the newspaper, whose head is appointed by the Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Let us kiss the hand of the one who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife”, the text continues. The Iranian government has not yet officially ruled on the assassination attempt on the 75-year-old intellectual. All the Iranian media have called Salman Rushdie a“apostate”with the exception ofadvancesa reformist newspaper.

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