Stabbing of Salman Rushdie

Charges Attempted second-degree murder, second-degree assault
Location Chautauqua Amphitheater Chautauqua Institution, Chautauqua, New York, U.S.
Died Unknown
Date August 12, 2022; 2 days ago (2022-08-12)
Criminal penalty Unknown


Henry Reese
Salman Rushdie
Henry Reese and Salman Rushdie were both injured.

On August 12, 2022, a man stabbed Indian-born British-American novelist Salman Rushdie multiple times as he was about to give a public lecture at the Chautauqua Institution in Chautauqua, New York, United States. The co-founder of City of Asylum, Henry Reese, who was also onstage and about to begin interviewing Rushdie, sustained a minor head injury during the assault. A New York state trooper and a sheriff's deputy, who were both present when the attack occurred, arrested a 24-year-old man — identified as Hadi Matar — at the scene. Matar was charged the following day with attempted murder and assault.

An air ambulance flew Rushdie to a hospital in nearby Erie, Pennsylvania. The novelist — having sustained damage to numerous organs, including to his liver and to one of his eyes — underwent surgery and was placed on a ventilator. The day after Rushdie was stabbed, his literary agent, Andrew Wylie, confirmed to the Associated Press that Rushdie had been taken off the ventilator and was able to speak.


Salman Rushdie's fourth novel, The Satanic Verses, garnered both critical acclaim and controversy following its publication in 1988. In 1989, Ayatollah Khomeini, the Supreme Leader of Iran, issued a fatwa calling for Rushdie's assassination, and Rushdie was forced into hiding for a period of several years. In the years prior to the stabbing, Rushdie traveled without a security detail, and the Chautauqua festival where he was speaking was known for an "accessible" and "relaxed environment".

The Execution of Imam's Order Directive set a US$3 million bounty for Rushdie, with the 15 Khordad Foundation paying it.

Two weeks before he was stabbed, Rushdie told the German current affairs magazine Stern that "Nowadays my life is very normal again", while he also stated that social media would have been "More dangerous, infinitely more dangerous" to his life had it been in existence during the 1980s.


On August 12, at around 10:47 am EDT, an attacker rushed the stage of Chautauqua Institution, where Rushdie was about to give a talk about the United States as a safe haven for exiled writers. The assailant stabbed him in the abdomen and the neck, the police and witnesses said, straining to continue the attack even as several people held him back. The co-founder of City of Asylum, Henry Reese, was also onstage at the time, about to begin interviewing Rushdie; he sustained a minor head injury during the assault. A doctor, who was present for the lecture, immediately tended to Rushdie.

A New York state trooper and a sheriff's deputy, both of whom were present at the event, arrested the assailant at the scene.

A helicopter flew Rushdie to a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania, The novelist's literary agent, Andrew Wylie, said on the evening of August 12 that Rushdie had undergone surgery, been placed on a ventilator and was unable to speak due to the extent of his injuries. Wylie said that Rushdie faced the prospect of losing one of his eyes, in addition to the possibility of liver damage and multiple severed nerves in one arm.

On August 13, a local district attorney expounded on the nature of Rushdie's injuries, confirming four wounds to the stomach area of his abdomen, three wounds to the right side of the front part of his neck, one wound to his right eye, one wound to his chest and one wound to his right thigh. Later that day, Wylie confirmed to the Associated Press – in response to a comment by one of Rushdie's writer friends – that Rushdie had been taken off the ventilator and was able to speak.


Police identified the suspect as Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old man from Fairview, New Jersey. He was born in the United States. His parents emigrated from Yaroun in the south of Lebanon. Reporters who visited his ancestral home village of Yaroun witnessed flags of Iran-backed Hezbollah, and portraits of Hassan Nasrallah, Ali Khamenei, Ruhollah Khomeini, and Qassem Soleimani. Hezbollah instructed the journalists to leave.

Matar's social media accounts indicated support for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. At the time of his arrest he was carrying a fake driver's license using a name evoking that of a killed Hezbollah militant. Matar had gotten an advanced pass to attend the event. The New York Post, referencing law enforcement, reported that Matar expressed views in support of the Shia theocratic Iranian government.


The investigation into Rushdie's stabbing is being led by the New York State Police, with assistance from the Federal Bureau of Investigation and Chautauqua County's district attorney.

The suspect, Matar, was charged in state court with attempted second-degree murder and second-degree assault and remanded without bail. Through an attorney, he pleaded not guilty to the charges.



A spokesperson for the Biden administration in the US issued a statement publicly condemning the attack. UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson, Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz also issued statements of outrage over the attack and expressed well-wishes for Rushdie. In India, Kerala Governor Arif Mohammad Khan told The Indian Express, "In a civilised society, there is no room for violence or taking the law in one's own hands. This heinous act deserves severe condemnation."

The CEO of PEN America commented, "We cannot immediately think of any comparable incident of a public violent attack on a writer during a literary event here in the United States." The New York Times reported that the incident sent "ripples of 'shock and horror' through the literary world". Nobel laureates Kazuo Ishiguro and Abdulrazak Gurnah were among the first to issue statements defending Rushdie, while his fellow Booker Prize winners Ian McEwan and Arundhati Roy also condemned the stabbing. Islamic studies expert Kylie Moore-Gilbert wrote: "More than 30 years and a $3 million bounty later, Khomeini's poisonous fatwa has finally caught up with Salman Rushdie. A black day for freedoms of speech, expression, religion & conscience. A tragic day for literature." Behrouz Boochani, an Iranian journalist in exile, condemned the stabbing of Rushdie, calling it an "attack on freedom of speech". Paul Tighe, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Culture, spoke in support of Rushdie as he opened an exhibition the day after the attack.

The assault on Rushdie coincided with a renewed interest in obtaining copies of The Satanic Verses, with the novel ranked number thirteen on by the afternoon afterwards.

According to The Observer, senior officials in Iran linked the stabbing to nuclear talks between Iran and the United States. Iranian-American political analyst Mohammad Marandi wrote: "I won't be shedding tears for a writer who spouts endless hatred & contempt for Muslims & Islam" and alluded to the nuclear talks and, also, to John Bolton. The Iranian ultraconservative newspaper Kayhan praised the attack. Iran-backed Hezbollah denied any prior knowledge of the incident.

British writer J. K. Rowling received a Twitter message shortly after the stabbing of Salman Rushdie which stated "you are next". She shared screenshots and said that police were investigating the incident.

Security issues

Questions were raised after the stabbing of Rushdie about security at the event, although a state trooper and a sheriff's officer were present. Michael Hill, President of the Chautauqua Institution, stated that it had ensured law enforcement officers were present for the event. He described the asssault on Rushdie as "unlike anything in [the institution's] nearly 150-year history". However, one eyewitness claimed that there was no security onstage. A lawyer present for the event said only food and drink was discouraged from being brought into the amphitheater.

It emerged that the leadership of the Chautauqua Institution disregarded recommendations for security precautions because they felt it would alienate the audience from the speakers. Following the attack, the Chautauqua Institution announced it would require photo IDs to buy gate passes, which could be purchased anonymously before. Carried bags will also be banned in the amphitheater.