Defenders of freedom of expression and dissidents accused the Iranian authorities on Saturday of being morally responsible for the attack on Salman Rushdie, since Iran never revoked the fatwa issued by Iranian leader Khomeini in 1989, which called for the death of the British writer.
“Regardless of whether or not the assassination attempt was directly ordered by Tehran, what is almost certain is that this is the result of 30 years of incitement by the regime to violence against this celebrated perpetrator,” the National Union said. for Democracy in Iran (NUFDI), a Washington-based opposition group.
For years, political discourse in Iran sidelined the fatwa issued by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini in 1989 in the wake of “The Satanic Verses,” a novel that earned Rushdie the label of an “apostate” in the Islamic Republic.
However, Khomeini’s successor, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, has made it known in recent years that the order remains in force.
Thus, a response to a question on the official website of the supreme guide, Khamenei.ir, stated in February 2017 that the fatwa was still valid. “Answer: the decree stands as it was issued by Imam Khomeini,” the message read.
Similarly, the Twitter account of the supreme guide, @khamenei_ir, indicated in 2019 that the fatwa was “solid and irrevocable”.
Free speech advocates add that a bounty of more than $3 million on Rushdie’s head, offered by Iran’s Jordad 15 Foundation, also remains in place.
“Ali Khamenei and other leaders of the clerical regime have always promised to fulfill this anti-Islamic fatwa over the past 34 years,” added the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI), another opposition group banned in Iran.
Rushdie’s stabbing at a public event in New York state nevertheless comes at a sensitive diplomatic moment for Iran, which is considering a multi-power offer to resurrect the 2015 deal on its nuclear program. Such a scenario would ease the sanctions weighing on the Iranian economy.
New York State Police detained and identified the assailant as 24-year-old Hadi Matar, saying the motive is unknown at this time.
Several commentators took aim at a Facebook account belonging to a man named Hadi Matar, littered with images of Iranian leaders. The account was deactivated hours after the attack, and at the moment it has not been confirmed that it belonged to the aggressor.
A source close to the investigation told the NBC channel that Matar “sympathizes with Shiite extremism and the Guardians of the Revolution”, without there being any conclusive evidence of a relationship between the attacker and that Iranian force.
“This is the true Islamic Republic; you negotiate with such a regime and allow its supporters and supporters into your society. Do they understand how we feel as hostages of this regime?” Hossein Ronaghi, a supporter of the Islamic Republic, asked on Twitter. freedom of expression and one of the staunchest critics of the Iranian leadership inside the country.
Iran’s actions are under the scrutiny of Washington, which in recent weeks has accused Tehran of hatching a plan to assassinate former National Security Adviser John Bolton and also Iranian dissident Masih Alinejad, who lives in the United States.
“Since 1989 there has been a fatwa by Khomeini against Salman Rushdie, and the Islamic Republic of Iran never revoked that fatwa. @khamenei_ir repeated it on Twitter as well. Now the Islamic Republic’s backers are praising the assassination and threatening me with running the same fate as Salman Rushdie,” commented Alinejad herself.
In its article on the attack, the official Iranian agency IRNA presented Rushdie as “the apostate author” of “The Satanic Verses”, and recalled the fatwa issued against him.
The Kayhan daily, whose editor is appointed by Khamenei, praised the attacker as a “courageous and duty-conscious man” who “severed the neck of the enemy of God with a knife.”
Iranian authorities had no official comment at this time. Mohammad Marandi, an adviser to the nuclear program negotiating team, wrote on Twitter that while he “will not shed tears” for Rushdie, what happened is “strange” at a critical time for the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program.