Some 260 Iranian writers, poets, artists, journalists, human rights activists and political figures signed a joint statement in solidarity with Salman Rushdie, condemning last Friday’s attack on the British author las “an attack on human values”.
Among the signatories, who reside both inside Iran and abroad, were the lawyer and International Bar Association member Saeed Dehghan, writer and journalist Behnam Bavandpour, sociologist Shahla Shafiq, human rights defender Hanif Heydaranejad and photographer Reza Daghti.
In the text, a copy of which was shared with IranWire, the signatories expressed concern for the currently hospitalized Rushdie: “Since the news of the attack on Salman Rushdie in New York, our hearts have beaten with his. We consider ourselves with him, with his family and friends, and with the global family of writers and defenders of freedom of speech and literary and artistic creativity."
In 1989, controversy around the content of Salman Rushdie’s novel The Satanic Verses culminated in a fatwa issued by Ayatollah Khomeini ordering Muslims to “execute” the author. His successor, Ali Khamenei, confirmed as recently as 2019 that the fatwa was still in place. The parastatal 15 Khordad Foundation had also set a bounty worth millions of dollars for Rushdie’s murder.
In the intervening years the book’s Japanese translator, Hitoshi Igarashi, and Norwegian publisher William Nygaard were assassinated by fanatics. Some 33 people were killed when adherents to the fatwa set fire to a hotel in Sivas in a bid to kill the partial Turkish translator Aziz Nesin. The Italian translator, Ettore Capriolo, survived an attempt on his life.
“Various institutions of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Iran have continuously encouraged such barbaric attacks and praised their perpetrators,” the statement added. “Let’s not forget that just a few months earlier, Khomeini had also ordered the massacre of political prisoners in Iran. Based on that fatwa, thousands were hanged. Islamic fundamentalism has claimed victims all over the world, especially in the so-called Islamic countries.”
The writers also expressed their regret at “Western governments turning a blind eye to the Islamic Republic’s terrorist activities outside of Iran”. They wrote: “In the past few years, several plots have been hatched to kidnap or assassinate journalists or opponents of the Islamic Republic in these countries.” As such, they said, they called on foreign states to “instruct ambassadors in Iran to defend freedom of expression and universal principles of human rights, and limit the presence of the terrorist regime in international institutions as much as possible".
The attack on Rushdie, they said, would only “strengthen the determination of writers and artists, and defenders of human rights, in their fight against darkness”.