Anglo-Indian author Salman Rushdie, 75, was attacked last Friday (12) at a cultural center in Chautauqua, New York, in the United States, as he was about to give a lecture. He, who was already threatened with death in Iran in the 80s due to his publications, was hit with 10 stab wounds.
After the attack, he was taken to a hospital where he needed help with breathing apparatus.
Yesterday, he already showed improvement in his health, he is stable, no longer needing mechanical ventilation to breathe. His agent Andrew Wylie said he can now speak, according to the BBC.
Here’s what we know so far about the incident:
According to reports from witnesses who were at the scene to the New York Times, a man invaded the stage of the institution where Rushdie was to lecture and started punching and stabbing him, at the moment the author was presented, as reported by the BBC.
Rushdie was participating in a discussion about the United States as an asylum for writers and other artists in exile and as a home for freedom of creative expression.
David Graves, 78, who was standing in the middle of the amphitheater, said Rushdie was still seated when the attacker arrived on stage and lunged at him. “Things unfolded in seconds,” he said.
Rita Landman, a doctor who was present at the scene and provided first aid to the writer, told the New York Times that he had multiple stab wounds, “including one on the right side of his neck, and there was a pool of blood under his body.”
She added, however, that he appeared to be alive and that people claimed he still “had a pulse”.
The first information was that he had been stabbed in the neck. However, a police spokesperson said in a statement that Rushdie also suffered a minor wound to his head and abdomen.
According to “Jornal Nacional” (TV Globo), the blows to Rushdie reached the stomach, chest, thigh and eye.
Conference presenter Ralph Henry Reese, 73, was slightly injured in the face.
Rushdie was airlifted to a hospital, where he underwent emergency surgery.
A bomb squad was also at the scene after the attack and determined that the institution is safe. Police are working with the FBI and the Chautauqua County Sheriff’s Office in the investigation.
Today, one of the children confirmed that Rushdie is on the mend and “his sense of humor remains intact.”
The perpetrator of the assault was immediately arrested and taken into custody. according to Police Major Eugene Staniszewski, the suspect has been identified as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, originally from Fairview, New Jersey.
A preliminary review of Matar’s social media by authorities showed he was sympathetic to Shiite extremism and the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Army, popularly known as the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, according to NBC New York.
Matar was born in California and recently moved to New Jersey, the NBC report said, adding that he had a fake driver’s license with him.
Matar traveled by bus to the intellectual retreat in western New York and bought a pass that allowed him to attend Rushdie’s lecture Friday morning, according to the New York Times.
There is still no indication of what motivated the crime and it is believed that the suspect acted alone.
County District Attorney Jason Schmidt said Matar was indicted on Friday for attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault. He’s being held without bail.
Schmidt said state and federal law enforcement agencies, including in New Jersey, are working to understand the planning and preparation that preceded the attack and determine whether additional charges should be brought.
This Saturday, Iran’s main ultra-conservative newspaper, Kayhan, congratulated the attacker. “Brave to this brave and duty-conscious man who attacked the apostate and cruel Salman Rushdie,” the paper wrote. “We kiss the hand of him who tore the neck of the enemy of God with a knife.”
At the hospital
After emergency surgery, Rushdie had to wear a respirator and was at risk of losing an eye, according to his agent, Andrew Wylie.
In a note sent to the New York Times, the representative said the author cannot speak and that the news “is not good”.
Salman will likely lose an eye. His arm nerves were cut and his liver was stabbed and damaged.
Writer’s agent Salman Rushdie
Yesterday, Rushdie showed improvement in his health and was considered stable. He no longer needs mechanical ventilation to breathe and is able to speak, his agent Andrew Wylie told the BBC.
Who also commented on the improvement in Rushdie’s health was the writer Aatish Taseer. On Twitter, he said Rushdie was “talking and joking” but the tweet was deleted from the social network.
The attack on the author had repercussions around the world. The French newspaper Charlie Hebdo last night published a letter of support for Rushdie.
“As of this writing, we do not know the motives of the author of the knife attack on Salman Rushdie. […] We venture to say that he is probably a believer, who is equally likely a Muslim and who committed his act even more likely in the name of the ‘fatwa’ launched in 1989 by Ayatollah Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, who sentenced him to death,” the letter begins.
The paper also criticizes press commentators who have claimed that Rushdie’s book, “The Satanic Verses”, is not disrespectful to Islam: “Reasoning of a very great perversity because it induces that, conversely, disrespectful comments towards Islam would justify a punishment, even that it was fatal.”
Finally, the vehicle argues that “nothing justifies the death sentence. “With what right do individuals, whom we don’t give a damn to know that they are religious, arrogate to themselves the right to say that someone should die?”
“We will have to stop respecting the word ‘respect’ when it is misused and used to intimidate and justify execution in the name of God. The word ‘respect’ has become a weapon used to threaten and even kill”, concludes the publication. .
French President Emmanuel Macron also spoke out. “His fight is ours, universal”, he declared on Twitter, guaranteeing that he was “today, more than ever, by his side”.
British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said he was “shocked that Sir Salman Rushdie was stabbed while exercising a right we must never fail to defend”, referring to freedom of expression.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres revealed through his spokesman that he was “horrified” by the attack, adding that “in no way was the violence a response to words”.
“This act of violence is appalling,” said security adviser to the President of the United States, Jake Sullivan.
Hezbollah denies participation
A representative of the Iranian-backed Lebanese armed group Hezbollah said the organization had no information about the attack on the writer.
“We don’t know anything about this matter, so we won’t comment,” the representative, on condition of anonymity, told Reuters.
Rushdie, born on June 19, 1947 in Bombay, two months before Indian independence, was raised by a family of non-practicing Muslim intellectuals. He set part of the Muslim world on fire with the publication of “The Satanic Verses”, which has been banned in Iran since 1988 as many Muslims consider it blasphemous.
A year later, Iran’s late leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini called for Rushdie’s death, with a reward being offered.
The author was forced to live in hiding and under police protection. He moved to the United States and lived quietly in New York. Rushdie had resumed a mostly normal life, always advocating satire in his books.
According to Fox News, Iran’s government has already distanced itself from Khomeini’s decree, but anti-Rushdie sentiment has remained in the country.
Many of the translators of his book were injured and even killed, such as the Japanese Hitoshi Igarashi, who was stabbed several times in 1991.
In 2012, the reward for his death was increased from R$10.80 million to R$16.80 million (at current conversion) by a semi-official Iranian religious foundation.
Writer Ayad Akhtar, a friend of the victim, told the Times that Rushdie never brought security to the events he was at.
Akhtar, the current president of PEN America, a nonprofit that defends free speech in literature in the US, said he and Rushdie never discussed the threats the novelist faced because of his book, but that he seemed perfectly comfortable in the world.
*With AFP and RFI