The San Juan Daily Star
Salman Rushdie, badly wounded, is off ventilator and starting to recover
By Elizabeth A. Harris
Author Salman Rushdie, who was stabbed roughly 10 times Friday, has been removed from a ventilator and is on the mend, his agent said Sunday.
“The road to recovery has begun,” Andrew Wylie said in a text. “It will be long; the injuries are severe, but his condition is headed in the right direction.”
Rushdie, who had spent decades under proscription by Iran, was attacked onstage minutes before he was to give a talk at the Chautauqua Institution in western New York.
Hadi Matar, a 24-year-old New Jersey man, was arrested at the scene and charged with second-degree attempted murder and assault with a weapon.
In court Saturday, prosecutors said that the attack on the author was premeditated and targeted. Matar traveled by bus to the intellectual retreat and purchased a pass that allowed him to attend the talk that Rushdie was to give Friday morning, according to the prosecutors.
Nathaniel Barone, a public defender, entered a plea of not guilty on his behalf. Matar was held without bail, with his next court appearance scheduled for Friday at 3 p.m.
Rushdie had been put on a ventilator Friday evening after undergoing hours of surgery at a hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania. Wylie said then that Rushdie might lose an eye, his liver had been damaged and the nerves in his arm were severed.
On Sunday, Rushdie’s son Zafar Rushdie said his father remained in critical condition and was receiving extensive treatment. He said the author was able to speak a few words.
“Though his life-changing injuries are severe, his usual feisty and defiant sense of humor remains intact,” Zafar Rushdie said in a statement. “We are so grateful to all the audience members who bravely leapt to his defense and administered first aid, along with the police and doctors who have cared for him and for the outpouring of love and support from around the world.”
The attack happened in a center dedicated to learning and reflection. A video on TikTok that was subsequently taken down showed the chaotic scene moments after the attacker had jumped onto the stage at the normally placid institution. Salman Rushdie, who had been living relatively openly after years of a semi-clandestine existence, had just taken a seat to give a talk when a man attacked him.
A crowd of people immediately rushed to where the author lay on the stage to offer aid. Stunned members of the audience could be seen throughout the amphitheater. While some were screaming, others got up and moved slowly toward the stage. People started to congregate in the aisles. A person could be heard yelling “Oh, my God” repeatedly.
Security at the Chautauqua Institution is minimal. At its main amphitheater, which regularly hosts popular musical acts and celebrity speakers and where Rushdie was scheduled to speak, there are no bag checks or metal detectors.
Little is known about Matar, the man accused of the attack. At a house listed as his residence in Fairview, New Jersey, no one answered the door Saturday morning. Many of Matar’s neighbors said they did not know him or his family, although some residents, when shown a photograph of Matar, said they recognized him as someone who would walk around the neighborhood with his head down, never making eye contact.
In Lebanon, the mayor of Yaroun, a village on the southern border with Israel, said that Matar’s father lives there and that authorities had been trying to reach him without success. The father lives in a stone house in the village’s center and tends to flocks of goats and sheep, said the mayor, Ali Tihfe.
“He’s refusing to see anyone or even open the door for us,” Tihfe said in a phone interview.
Rushdie had been living under the threat of an assassination attempt since 1989, about six months after the publication of his novel “The Satanic Verses.” The book fictionalized parts of the life of the Prophet Muhammad with depictions that offended some Muslims, who believed the novel to be blasphemous. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, who led Iran after its 1979 revolution, issued an edict known as a fatwa Feb. 14, 1989. It ordered Muslims to kill Rushdie.