London, 26 February 2016
PEN International joins PEN America and English PEN in deploring the effort at intimidation mounted by 40 state-run media outlets in Iran that have announced a US$600,000 bounty put forward this week to augment Ayatollah Khomeini’s 1989 death fatwa on the writer Salman Rushdie. The spectre of a new financial reward being added to this longstanding threat is a craven attempt to fan the flames of religious extremism and hatred.
‘PEN has supported Rushdie since the fatwa was first passed and writers around the world stand in solidarity with him. It's highly disturbing to hear of this bounty offered by state-run media which should be rescinded immediately,’ said Jennifer Clement, President of PEN International.
‘The Iranian government should make it clear that they do not condone any violence directed against Rushdie, and undertake all necessary steps to guarantee his physical safety. Any Iranian citizen or organization against whom there is evidence of aiding or advocating Rushdie’s murder must be brought to justice.’
Rushdie, a former President of PEN America, a resident of the United States and a citizen of the United Kingdom, has lived for 27 years under a religious death warrant because of his novel The Satanic Verses. Ayatollah Khomeini's fatwa led to the killing of a Japanese translator of the book, as well as other violent attacks.
In spite of the threat, Rushdie's outspokenness and passionate defence of imperilled writers the world over stand as an inspiration, providing a daily reminder of what is at stake in safeguarding free thought.
PEN also calls on Western governments that are now expanding relations with Tehran to insist that the Iranian government nullify its threat and bounty, disavow the fatwa once and for all, and uphold its international obligations to protect free expression.