Brief chronology of the Rushdie affair

February 14, 1989

The late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini of Iran states:

I inform the proud Muslim people of the world that the author of The Satanic Verses, which is against Islam, the Prophet and the Koran, and all involved in its publication who were aware of its content, are sentenced to death. . . . I call on all zealous Muslims to execute them quickly, wherever they find them. . . . Whoever is killed on this path will be regarded as a martyr.

Following this pronouncement against Rushdie and his associates, the 15 Khordad Foundation, an Iranian charity, offers a reward of $1 million to anyone who kills Rushdie. Rushdie goes into hiding.

Governments throughout the Muslim world ban the book. Riots and demonstrations against Rushdie take place in England, Pakistan and India; several people are killed and many wounded. Management at Waldenbooks, B. Dalton and Barnes & Noble remove the book from display shelves, citing concern for the safety of employees. Viking/Penguin, the publisher of The Satanic Verses, receives daily telephone threats. Bookstores in the U.S. and England are bombed.

Days after the fatwa's pronouncement, the International Rushdie Defense Committee is launched in London. Chaired and coordinated by Article 19, a London-based group that advocates for free expression, the Committee is a coalition of writers, publishers, booksellers, journalists, trade unions, and human rights groups.

June 1989

The Ayatollah Khomeini dies. However, his successor, the Ayatollah Khamenei, reiterates the decree.

July 1991

Ettore Capriolo and Professor Hitoshi Igarashi, Italian and Japanese translators respectively of The Satanic Verses, are brutally attacked. Capriolo is seriously injured, Igarashi is killed.

November 1992

The 15 Khordad Foundation, which has already doubled the $1 million bounty to $2 million, offers an additional sum to "cover expenses for the extermination of the cursed writer [Salman Rushdie]," thereby encouraging mercenary action.

May 11, 1993

Prime Minister John Major receives Rushdie and Frances D'Souza, chairperson of the International Rushdie Defense Committee, at the House of Commons and underlines his government's full support for Rushdie's rights as a British citizen, expressing concern that Iran has not repudiated the fatwa.

September 1993

The Rushdie Defense Committee U.S.A., a coalition of groups active in the fields of civil rights, human rights, and literature, is launched, and calls on President Bill Clinton to meet with Rushdie.

October 1993

William Nygaard, Rushdie's Norwegian publisher, is shot and seriously injured.

November 24, 1993

President Clinton, Secretary of State Warren Christopher, and National Security Advisor Anthony Lake meet with Rushdie in the White House.

June 1995

Hopes that the affair will soon be resolved are dashed when Iran's deputy foreign minister Vaezi meets with the European Union Troika but refuses to give any undertakings in response to their demarche requesting that the threat be withdrawn.

Fall 1995/ Winter 1996

The Moor's Last Sigh, Rushdie's first adult novel since The Satanic Verses, wins the fiction category of the UK Whitbread Award and receives acclaim from critics in both Europe and the U.S. Rushdie makes several public appearances to coincide with the publication of the book.

February 12, 1997

The Khordad 15 Foundation once again raises the bounty, this time to $2.5 million.


Rushdie continues to live in hiding with the protection of the British Government's security services.

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