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Stop the Fatwa!

In response to:

Real Magicians from the February 16, 1995 issue

To the Editors:

In her review [NYR, February 16] of Salman Rushdie’s East, West, Hilary Mantel remarks that Rushdie has been compelled to respond in both political and imaginative ways to the extraordinary destiny imposed upon him. Her review rightly concentrates on Rushdie’s imaginative strategies; but readers may also be interested in recent developments in the political and diplomatic worlds, where the consequences of the fatwa pronounced by the Ayatollah Khomeini continue to unfold.

In October 1994, the Iranian Ambassador to Oslo, Mr. Abdolrahim Gavahi, was recalled by his government. In a letter to the Norwegian Foreign Ministry, in June 1994, Ambassador Gavahi had written: “We…condemn any form of the application of force in international relations.” This unimpeachably diplomatic utterance was a response to a request from the Norwegian government that Iranian diplomats accredited to Norway provide assurances that the Iranian Mission would not facilitate the implementation of the fatwa (more bluntly: the murder of Rushdie, or others associated with the publication of The Satanic Verses) on Norwegian soil. Ambassador Gavahi’s comments were viewed by his government as a failure “to act in accordance with Iran’s principled foreign policy.”

It is equally disturbing to relate that at a London conference on the Iranian political economy, held in January and supported by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, statements were made by a British diplomat and an MP on the desirability of closer relations between Iran and the UK. In a session chaired by the Iranian Chargé D’Affaires in London, Gholamreza Ansari, a British MP, Peter Temple-Morris, declared that Salman Rushdie was the major impediment to closeness—a message endorsed by the audience.

Efforts to break the miserable deadlock continue. Iran’s commitment to murder Rushdie, no matter where he might be found, continues to threaten the international order. On April 19, European Union Foreign Ministers began negotiations with the Iranian government, at the highest level. They seek an undertaking that the Iranian government will take no action, anywhere, against Salman Rushdie, and will also publicly guarantee the safety of his threatened associates.

The International Rushdie Defence Committee cautiously awaits the response of the Iranian government but believes that improved relations with Iran following any such agreement must be postponed until the completion of a monitoring period to gauge Iran’s good faith.

Frances D’Souza
Executive Director, Article 19
International Centre Against Censorship
Chairperson, The International Rushdie Defence Committee, London

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